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Near-Surface Soil Carbon, Carbon/Nitrogen Ratio, and Tree Species Are Tightly Linked across Northeastern United States Watersheds

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Abstract:

Forest soils hold large stores of carbon, with the highest concentrations in the surface horizons. In these horizons, both the total C mass and the C/N ratio may respond more rapidly to changes in tree species than lower horizons. We measured C and C/N ratios in the Oa or A horizon from 12 watersheds at 8 established forested research sites in the northeastern United States. The dominant tree species included Acer saccharum, Betula alleghaniensis, Fagus grandifolia, Picea rubens, and Tsuga canadensis. In 710 plots, both soil C (50‐530 g kg−1) and the C/N ratio (11.6‐45.3) had a wide range. In all but the Cone Pond watershed, both N concentration and the C/N ratio were strongly related to C content. For these 11 watersheds, the average C/N ratio = 9.5 + 0.030 × C g kg−1 (R 2 = 0.97, P < 0.001). Ratios at Cone Pond were much higher than would be predicted from this equation and charcoal was found in numerous samples, suggesting a source of recalcitrant C. Averaged by watershed, C concentration was also significantly related to C pools. The carbon concentration of the horizons sampled was negatively related to A. saccharum + B. alleghaniensis dominance and positively related to conifer + F. grandifolia dominance. The strong relationships between C, C/N ratio, and species suggest predictable patterns in C accumulation in near-surface soils.

Keywords: Oa horizon; carbon pools; carbon sequestration; nitrogen

Document Type: Research Article

Publication date: 2011-12-01

More about this publication?
  • 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.
    Forest Science is published bimonthly in February, April, June, August, October, and December.

    2015 Impact Factor: 1.702
    Ranking: 16 of 66 in forestry

    Average time from submission to first decision: 62.5 days*
    June 1, 2016 to Feb. 28, 2017

    Also published by SAF:
    Journal of Forestry
    Other SAF Publications
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