2021 journal article

Bioenergy production effects on SOM with depth of loblolly pine forests on Paleaquults in southeastern USA


By: K. Minick n, Z. Leggett n, E. Sucre, T. Fox* & B. Strahm*

co-author countries: United States of America 🇺🇸
author keywords: Loblolly pine; Switchgrass; Intercropping; Density fractionation; Isotope natural abundance; Ultisol
Source: Web Of Science
Added: October 12, 2021

Managed loblolly pine (P. taeda L.) forests comprise a major land-use across the “wood basket” of the southeastern US. Lower coastal plain loblolly pine forests can enhance carbon (C) storage in fast-growing vegetation and soils, representing a significant opportunity to manage these forests for improved soil health through an understanding of soil C and nitrogen (N) storage. Furthermore, these forests have unrealized potential to produce biomass for emerging bioenergy markets. Despite this, very little is known about how intensified management (herbaceous bioenergy production) of these forests influences short-term soil organic C (SOC) and soil organic N (SON) pools in surface and subsurface soil horizons. The field site was located in the Lower Coastal Plain of North Carolina, USA in which trees were planted in bedded (e.g., raised) rows (bed) and intercropped with or without switchgrass (P. virgatum L.) between the bedded rows of trees (interbed). Soils were collected from four depths (0–5, 5–15, 15–30, and 30–45 cm) and two locations (bed and interbed regions) and fractionated into light and heavy mineral-associated SOC and SON pools using a sequential density fractionation technique. Bulk soil SOC and SON concentration as well as C:N ratio decreased with depth for both treatments, while 15N became enriched. Free and occluded lighter fractions (< 1.65 g cm−3) had higher SOC and SON concentration (~45% C and ~ 1.15% N) compared to medium (1.65–2.00 g cm−3) and heavy (> 2.00 g cm−3) fractions. At the 0–5 cm depth in interbeds, SOC and SON were concentrated in the free light fraction (~45%), but transitioned to being concentrated in the heaviest mineral-associated fraction at the 15–30 (~55%) and 30–45 (~70%) cm depth. The 15N analysis of density fractions indicated progressive enrichment with increasing density, suggesting increasing incorporation of microbially-derived products into stable mineral-associated soil organic matter (SOM) pools. In the pine-switchgrass treatment, SOC and SON concentrations were higher in the light and medium fractions in beds and interbeds compared to the pine only treatment, particularly at the 30–45 cm depth. The C:N ratio in the pine-switchgrass treatment was higher compared to the pine only treatment indicating inputs of new plant-derived organic matter. Furthermore, the δ13C stable isotope signature was enriched in both the occluded light fraction (1.65 g cm−3) and the mineral-associated fraction (1.65–1.85 g cm−3). Our results suggest that switchgrass intercropping is contributing to the early buildup of SOM in particulate and mineral-associated SOM pools possibly through additions of new root-derived organic matter and the positive effect on soil microbial activity through priming of microbes.