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Research article2021Peer reviewedOpen access

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.

Abstract

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.

Keywords

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

Published in

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