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Green alder improves chemical properties of forest floor and topsoil in formerly air-polluted mountains

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Although air pollution at the Central European “Black Triangle” sites has decreased since the 1990s, its legacy has persisted. Unlike the dominating Norway spruce that was planted again in order to restore forest cover, deciduous broadleaves were expected to improve soil. The objective of the study was to compare effect of N-fixing green alder on forest floor and soil properties compared to Norway spruce of comparable age. Forest floor layers [diagnostic horizons: litter (OL), fermentation (OF) and humified (OH)] and topsoil (A) were sampled in three replicates where green alder (GA), Norway spruce (NS), and mixture (GA + NS) were growing. Upper (OL, OF) horizons were affected positively where green alders were present and effect on OH and A horizons was weaker. Properties of GA + NS were in general intermediate to GA and NS. The improvement in soil was manifested by higher nutrient pools of N, P, K, Ca, and Mg in both OL and OF; more dry matter, organic carbon and higher cation exchange capacity were shown in OF and lower acidity in all analyzed horizons. Lower P concentrations were found in GA, nevertheless with no effect on P-pools. Forest floor and topsoil conditions confirmed green alder’s capability for improving chemistry of the formerly polluted mountain soil.

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The study was supported by the National Agency for Agricultural Research (QJ1530298—Project completed in 2017 and QK1920328) and also by the Ministry of Agriculture of the Czech Republic (MZE-RO0118). The authors gratefully acknowledge establishment of the three study sites by Vratislav Balcar (1. Jizerka), Theodor Lokvenc and Horst Kriegel (2. Lesní bouda), and František Šach and Václav Nárovec (3. Velká Deštná) from the Forestry and Game Management Research Institute, Opočno Research Station. The chemical analyses were performed in the Josef Tomáš laboratory in Opočno, Czech Republic. The authors would like to thank Gale A. Kirking (English Editorial Services) for editing the language.

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Špulák, O., Kacálek, D. & Černohous, V. Green alder improves chemical properties of forest floor and topsoil in formerly air-polluted mountains. Eur J Forest Res 139, 83–96 (2020).

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  • Alnus viridis
  • Picea abies
  • Forest floor
  • Soil properties
  • Nutrients