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Plant and Soil

, Volume 409, Issue 1–2, pp 459–477 | Cite as

Patterns of carbon, nitrogen and phosphorus dynamics in decomposing wood blocks in Canadian forests

  • C. E. SmythEmail author
  • B. Titus
  • J. A. Trofymow
  • T. R. Moore
  • C. M. Preston
  • C. E. Prescott
  • the CIDET Working Group
Regular Article

Abstract

Aims and Methods

We measured changes in mass and in carbon (C), nitrogen (N) and phosphorus (P) concentrations and content of surface-placed and buried wood blocks decomposing over 12 years at 21 sites across Canada to evaluate the influence of the environment on C, N, and P dynamics.

Results and Conclusions

Carbon decomposition over time was best described using a sigmoidal fit, which was slightly better than a negative exponential function. Decomposition was slow at cold and wetland sites, with less than 15 % of the original C content lost after 12 years for 4 upland and 3 wetland sites. Decomposition rates were faster for buried than for surface blocks, except in wetlands and in a few upland sites that had high annual precipitation. Nitrogen was gained during the early stages of decomposition, followed by a net N loss once an average C:N mass ratio of 165 was reached for all upland surface-placed blocks, and 200 for upland buried blocks. Critical C:N values were weakly correlated with C:N ratios in the surface organic horizon, suggesting an influence of forest floor properties on decomposition dynamics with N release occurring sooner on more fertile sites. Critical values for N and P mineralization were greater than those reported for foliar litters.

Keywords

Forest Wood decomposition Litterbags Carbon dynamics Nutrient dynamics Canadian intersite decomposition experiment 

Notes

Acknowledgments

Climate station data were provided by Environment Canada, Atmospheric and Environment Services. We acknowledge all members of the CIDET Working Group, without whom this study and analysis would not have been possible: D. Anderson (University of Saskatchewan, SK), C. Camiré (Université de Laval, PQ), L. Duchesne (Canadian Forest Service, ON), J. Fyles (McGill University, PQ), L. Kozak (University of Saskatchewan, SK), M. Kranabetter (Ministry of Forests, BC), I. Morrison (Canadian Forest Service, ON), C. Prescott (University of British Columbia, BC), M. Siltanen (Canadian Forest Service, AB), S. Smith (Agriculture Canada, BC), S. Visser (University of Calgary, AB), R. Wein (University of Alberta, AB), and D. White (Dep. Indian and Northern Affairs, YT). More information on CIDET, including a complete list of publications, is available at: http://cfs.nrcan.gc.ca/projects/76. The contribution of R. Ferris (technical support), A. Harris and D. Dunn (PFC Chemical Services Lab) and other technical staff and students at the Pacific Forestry Centre is gratefully acknowledged. We thank S. Hararuk and two anonymous reviewers for providing thoughtful and insightful comments on an earlier draft of the manuscript.

Supplementary material

11104_2016_2972_MOESM1_ESM.docx (368 kb)
ESM 1 (DOCX 367 kb)

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Copyright information

© Crown Copyright 2016

Authors and Affiliations

  • C. E. Smyth
    • 1
    Email author
  • B. Titus
    • 1
  • J. A. Trofymow
    • 1
  • T. R. Moore
    • 2
  • C. M. Preston
    • 1
  • C. E. Prescott
    • 3
  • the CIDET Working Group
  1. 1.Natural Resources CanadaCanadian Forest ServiceVictoriaCanada
  2. 2.McGill UniversityQCCanada
  3. 3.University of British ColumbiaVancouverCanada

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