, Volume 71, Issue 2, pp 163-175

The imprint of coarse woody debris on soil chemistry in the western Oregon Cascades

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Abstract

Coarse woody debris (CWD) may create a spatially discrete soil imprint through the release of carbon rich, acidic dissolved organic matter (DOM). DOM has been implicated in many soil processes such as humus formation, nutrient immobilization, podzolization, and the dissolution of soil minerals. We investigated a potential CWD imprint on soil chemistry by sampling leachates and soil solutions under CWD at different stages of decay and under the forest floor as controls. Solutions were analyzed for total dissolved organic carbon (DOC) and polyphenol concentrations. DOC was further separated by chemical fractionation. We also sampled soil from underneath CWD and from control areas without CWD. Samples were analyzed for pH, base saturation, exchangeable acidity, and several aluminum and iron fractions. The pH of CWD leachates was lower (p ≤ 0.001) and contained more polyphenols (p ≤ 0.0001) and DOC than control leachates, although chemical DOC fractions from CWD and the forest floor were similar. Surface mineral soils under CWD were lower in pH (p ≤ 0.005), had more exchangeable acidity (p ≤ 0.002) and more exchangeable aluminum (p ≤ 0.04) and iron (p ≤ 0.06) than forest floor soils. At depths greater than 5 cm, there were no differences between forest floor soils and soils under CWD. Our results suggest that CWD in the middle stages of decay acidifies the surface soil as it decomposes by decreasing exchangeable bases and increasing exchangeable acidity and aluminum. Soils under the most highly decayed CWD, or deeper soils were not affected by CWD. Although we hypothesized that well-decayed CWD would show a spatially explicit imprint on soils, the effect of CWD on soil chemistry was small and limited to surface mineral soils.