Annals of Forest Science

, 75:103 | Cite as

Soil aggregation may be a relevant indicator of nutrient cation availability

  • Léa Bedel
  • Arnaud LegoutEmail author
  • Anne Poszwa
  • Gregory van der Heijden
  • Mélanie Court
  • Noémie Goutal-Pousse
  • Emmanuelle Montarges-Pelletier
  • Jacques Ranger
Research Paper


Key message

Aggregation was studied in two acidic forest soils (NE France) to investigate the potential link between available Ca and Mg content and soil aggregate size distribution and properties. Clay content influenced the aggregation status while clay mineralogy influenced aggregate stability and dynamics. Aggregation status and reactivity of soil components contributed to the difference of exchangeable Ca and Mg content in topsoil between the two sites.


Though nutrient fluxes are important to define forest soil chemical fertility, the quantification of nutrient reservoirs in the soils and their availability to tree uptake is essential. A thorough understanding of nutrient availability requires an investigation of nutrient location and distribution in the soil solid phase.


The general aim was to investigate the potential link between available Ca and Mg content and soil aggregate size distribution and their properties (chemical, physical, mineralogical).


Soil aggregates were separated according to three size classes (200–2000 μm; 50–200 μm; < 50 μm) in two forest soils of the Lorraine plateau (France), both classified as Luvisols ruptic. The physical, chemical, and mineralogical properties were measured for each aggregate class.


We showed that the relative abundance of an intermediate aggregate class [200–50 μm] was relevant to explain the difference of exchangeable Ca and Mg between sites. These aggregates were the poorest in organic and reactive mineral components and were unstable, which may mitigate the retention of Ca and Mg by ion-exchange.


This study highlights the role of aggregation and reactivity of soil components as relevant determinants of cation availability to tree uptake in soils.


Chemical fertility Calcium Magnesium Forest soil Aggregation 



We thank the ANR DST, the Région Lorraine, the Lhoist Group, the European Union via FEDER, the ONF, the LTSER France Zone Atelier Bassin Moselle and the Ministry of Research (through the EC2O and OteLo programs) for funding. These sites belong to the SOERE F-ORE-T which is supported annually by Ecofor, Allenvi, and the French national research infrastructure ANAEE-F. Léa Bedel PhD thesis was granted by INRA and Région Lorraine. The UR BEF is supported by a grant overseen by the French National Research Agency (ANR) as part of the “Investissements d’Avenir” program (ANR-11-LABX-0002-01, Lab of Excellence ARBRE).

Author contributions

Conceptualization, investigation, data acquisition and analysis: Léa Bedel, Anne Poszwa, Arnaud Legout, Jacques Ranger

Mineralogy: Emmanuelle Montarges-Pelletier, Mélanie Court

Writing—original draft: Léa Bedel, Arnaud Legout, Anne Poszwa, Jacques Ranger

Writing—review and editing: all co-authors

Project administration, supervision, funding acquisition: Jacques Ranger, Anne Poszwa, Arnaud Legout

Funding information


Région Lorraine

Lhoist Group

European Union (via FEDER)


LTSER France Zone Atelier Bassin Moselle

French Ministry of Research (through the EC2O and OteLo programs)





ANR-11-LABX-0002-01, Lab of Excellence ARBRE

Compliance with ethical standards

Conflict of interest

The authors declare that they have no conflict of interest.

Supplementary material

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Copyright information

© INRA and Springer-Verlag France SAS, part of Springer Nature 2018

Authors and Affiliations

  • Léa Bedel
    • 1
    • 2
  • Arnaud Legout
    • 1
    return OK on get
  • Anne Poszwa
    • 2
  • Gregory van der Heijden
    • 1
  • Mélanie Court
    • 1
  • Noémie Goutal-Pousse
    • 3
  • Emmanuelle Montarges-Pelletier
    • 2
  • Jacques Ranger
    • 1
  1. 1.Inra, BEFNancyFrance
  2. 2.CNRS, LIECUniversité de LorraineNancyFrance
  3. 3.ONF, Département RDIVillers-lès-NancyFrance

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