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Potential of decaying wood to restore root-available base cations in depleted forest soils

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The depletion of root-available Ca in northern forest soils exposed to decades of increased acid deposition adversely affects forest health and productivity. Laboratory studies indicated the potential of wood-decay fungi to restore lost Ca. This study presents changes in concentration of Ca, Mg, and K in sapwood of red spruce (Picea rubens Sarg.), red maple (Acer rubrum L.), eastern hemlock (Tsuga canadensis (L.) Carrière), and paper birch (Betula papyrifera Marshall) during the decay process at two experimental forests for 12 years and to compare concentrations of exchangeable Ca, Mg, and Al in decayed wood residues at 10 and 12 years with those in the forest floor. Significant loss of mass indicated by decreasing wood density occurred after 2–8 years in conifers and after only 2 years in hardwoods. A significant gain in wood K was observed at 2 years followed by a significant loss at 8 years. A negligible gain in Ca concentration occurred at 2 years and a substantial gain at 8 years. Observed changes in Mg concentration were variable. No significant difference in exchangeable Ca concentration was observed between decayed wood residue of spruce and maple and the forest floor. However, decayed wood residue had a much lower Al concentration and molar Al/Ca ratio, a condition characteristic of sites with high root-available Ca.

Document Type: Research Article


Affiliations: 1: USDA Forest Service, Northern Research Station, 271 Mast Road, Durham, NH 03824, USA. 2: Virginia Agricultural Experiment Station, Virginia Tech, 104 Hutcheson Hall, Blacksburg, VA 24061, USA. 3: Department of Bioproducts and Biosystems Engineering, University of Minnesota, 108 Kaufert Laboratory, 2004 Folwell Avenue, St. Paul, MN 55108, USA.

Publication date: June 8, 2012

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  • Published since 1971, this monthly journal features articles, reviews, notes and commentaries on all aspects of forest science, including biometrics and mensuration, conservation, disturbance, ecology, economics, entomology, fire, genetics, management, operations, pathology, physiology, policy, remote sensing, social science, soil, silviculture, wildlife and wood science, contributed by internationally respected scientists. It also publishes special issues dedicated to a topic of current interest.
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