Journal of Soils and Sediments

, Volume 16, Issue 2, pp 382–395 | Cite as

Inorganic and organic carbon dynamics in forested soils developed on contrasting geology in Slovenia—a stable isotope approach

  • Nives Ogrinc
  • Tjaša Kanduč
  • Bor Krajnc
  • Urša Vilhar
  • Primož Simončič
  • Lixin Jin
Soils, Sec 1 • Soil Organic Matter Dynamics and Nutrient Cycling • Research Article



Soil carbon dynamics were studied at four different forest stands developed on bedrocks with contrasting geology in Slovenia: one plot on magmatic granodiorite bedrock (IG), two plots on carbonate bedrock in the karstic-dinaric area (CC and CD), and one situated on Pleistocene coalluvial terraces (FGS).

Materials and methods

Throughfall (TF) and soil water were collected monthly at each location from June to November during 2005–2007. In soil water, the following parameters were determined: T, pH, total alkalinity, concentrations of Ca2+ and Mg2+, dissolved organic carbon (DOC), and Cl as well as δ13CDIC. On the other hand, in TF, only the Cl content was measured. Soil and plant samples were also collected at forest stands, and stable isotope measurements were performed in soil and plant organic carbon and total nitrogen and in carbonate rocks. The obtained data were used to calculate the dissolved inorganic carbon (DIC) and DOC fluxes. Statistic analyses were carried out to compare sites of different lithologies, at different spatial and temporal scales.

Results and discussion

Decomposition of soil organic matter (SOM) controlled by the climate can explain the 13C and 15 N enrichment in SOM at CC, CD, and FGS, while the soil microbial biomass makes an important contribution to the SOM at IG. The loss of DOC at a soil depth of 5 cm was estimated at 1 mol m−2 year−1 and shows no significant differences among the study sites. The DOC fluxes were mainly controlled by physical factors, most notably sorption dynamics, and microbial–DOC relationships. The pH and pCO2 of the soil solution controlled the DIC fluxes according to carbonate equilibrium reactions. An increased exchange between DIC and atmospheric air was observed for samples from non-carbonate subsoils (IG and FGS). In addition, higher δ13CDIC values up to −19.4 ‰ in the shallow soil water were recorded during the summer as a consequence of isotopic fractionation induced by molecular diffusion of soil CO2. The δ13CDIC values also suggest that half of the DIC derives from soil CO2 indicating that 2 to 5 mol m−2 year−1 of carbon is lost in the form of dissolved inorganic carbon at CC and CD after carbonate dissolution.


Major difference in soil carbon dynamics between the four forest ecosystems is a result of the combined influence of bedrock geology, soil texture, and the sources of SOM. Water flux was a critical parameter in quantifying carbon depletion rates in dissolved organic and inorganic carbon forms.


Carbon cycle DIC DOC Forest ecosystem SOM Stable isotopes 



The authors are thankful to Mr. Stojan Žigon for technical support. This research was conducted in the framework of two projects, L4-6232 and J7-7397, funded by the Slovenian Research Agency (ARRS). The study is a part of research doctoral dissertation of B. Krajnc supported by Innovative schemes for co-financing of doctoral studies financed by the European Union through the European Social Fund. Special thanks are given to David J. Heath for linguistic corrections, the Editor, and two anonymous reviewers for their constructive comments that improved the quality of the paper.

Supplementary material

11368_2015_1255_MOESM1_ESM.docx (62 kb)
ESM 1 (DOCX 62 kb)


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Copyright information

© Springer-Verlag Berlin Heidelberg 2015

Authors and Affiliations

  • Nives Ogrinc
    • 1
    • 2
  • Tjaša Kanduč
    • 1
  • Bor Krajnc
    • 2
  • Urša Vilhar
    • 3
  • Primož Simončič
    • 3
  • Lixin Jin
    • 4
  1. 1.Department of Environmental SciencesJožef Stefan InstituteLjubljanaSlovenia
  2. 2.Jožef Stefan International Postgraduate SchoolLjubljanaSlovenia
  3. 3.Slovenian Forestry InstituteLjubljanaSlovenia
  4. 4.Department of Geological ScienceUniversity of Texas at El PasoEl PasoUSA

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