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Towards a Taxonomic Classification of Humus Forms

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A two-category taxonomic classification and a methodology for field description are proposed to aid in consistent identification and interpretation of humus forms for ecosystem research, surveys, and management. The classification uses the nomenclature principles of the U.S. soil taxonomy and the master organic horizon designations of the Canadian system of soil classification. It includes humus form taxa that have been recognized in Europe and North America. Recognized taxa are defined on the basis of observable and easily measurable morphological properties. Three taxa, Mor, Moder, and Mull, are recognized at the order level and are differentiated according to the type of F horizon and the relative prominence of organic-enriched A horizons. These reflect principal differences in the nature and rate of decomposition processes. Names of the 16 taxa at the lower, group level are created by adding formative elements to the name of the order. For example, groups of the Mor order are differentiated according to the relative thickness of F and H horizons (Hemimors and Humimors); degree of humification in the H horizon (Resimors); content of decaying wood (Lignomors); and moisture regime (Hydromors, Fibrimors, and Mesimors). Phases can be formed for any taxon to recognize important morphological properties that deviate from the taxonomic differentiae. Keys to the recognized taxa and descriptions of representative humus form profiles for each group are provided to assist in identification. Methods for describing, sampling, and surveying humus forms are presented to facilitate field examinations and subsequent studies.

Keywords: Humus; forest floor; humus form; moder; mor; mull; soil classification

Document Type: Journal Article

Publication date: February 1, 1993

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  • Forest Science is a peer-reviewed journal publishing fundamental and applied research that explores all aspects of natural and social sciences as they apply to the function and management of the forested ecosystems of the world. Topics include silviculture, forest management, biometrics, economics, entomology & pathology, fire & fuels management, forest ecology, genetics & tree improvement, geospatial technologies, harvesting & utilization, landscape ecology, operations research, forest policy, physiology, recreation, social sciences, soils & hydrology, and wildlife management.
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