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Research article - Peer-reviewed, 2021

Long-Term Impact of Liming on Soil C and N in a Fertile Spruce Forest Ecosystem

Persson, T.; Andersson, S.; Bergholm, J.; Gronqvist, T.; Hogbom, L.; Vegerfors, B.; Wiren, A.


Liming can counteract acidification in forest soils, but the effects on soil C and N pools and fluxes over long periods are less well understood. Replicated plots in an acidic and N-rich 40-year-old Norway spruce (Picea abies) forest in SW Sweden (Hasslov) were treated with 0, 3.45 and 8.75 Mg ha(-1)of dolomitic lime (D0, D2 and D3) in 1984. Between 1984 and 2016, soil organic C to 30 cm depth increased by 28 Mg ha(-1)(30% increase) in D0 and decreased by 9 Mg ha(-1)(9.4% decrease) in D3. The change in D2 was not significant (+ 2 Mg ha(-1)). Soil N pools changed proportionally to those in soil C pools. The C and N changes occurred almost exclusively in the top organic layer. Non-burrowing earthworms responded positively to liming and stimulated heterotrophic respiration in this layer in both D2 and D3. Burrowing earthworms in D3 further accelerated C and N turnover and loss of soil. The high soil C and N loss at our relatively N-rich site differs from studies of N-poor sites showing no C and N loss. Earthworms need both high pH and N-rich food to reach high abundance and biomass. This can explain why liming of N-rich soils often results in decreasing C and N pools, whereas liming of N-poor soils with few earthworms will not show any change in soil C and N. Extractable nitrate N was always higher in D3 than in D2 and D0. After 6 years (1990), potential nitrification was much higher in D3 (197 kg N ha(-1)) than in D0 (36 kg N ha(-1)), but this difference decreased during the following years, when also the unlimed organic layers showed high nitrification potential. Our experiment finds that high-dose liming of acidic N-rich forest soils produces an initial pulse of soil heterotrophic respiration and increases in earthworm biomass, which together cause long-term declines in soil C and N pools.


Decomposition; Heterotrophic respiration; pH; Net N mineralization; Nitrification; Nitrifiers; Earthworms

Published in

2021, volume: 24, number: 4, pages: 968-987
Publisher: SPRINGER

Authors' information

Swedish University of Agricultural Sciences, Department of Ecology
Swedish University of Agricultural Sciences, Department of Soil and Environment
Bergholm, J.
No organisation
Grönqvist, Tomas
Swedish University of Agricultural Sciences, Department of Animal Nutrition and Management
Forestry Research Institute of Sweden, Skogforsk
Swedish University of Agricultural Sciences, Department of Forest Ecology and Management
Vegerfors-Persson, Birgitta
Swedish University of Agricultural Sciences, Department of Energy and Technology
Wirén, A.
No organisation

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