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Research article - Peer-reviewed, 2007

The contribution of fresh litter to dissolved organic carbon leached from a coniferous forest floor

Froberg M, Kleja DB, Hagedorn F


The relative contributions of litter and humified organic matter as the source of dissolved organic carbon (DOC) leached from organic layers of forest soils are poorly understood. In the present investigation, C-13 labelled spruce litter was used to study the role of recent litter in the leaching of DOC from a coniferous forest floor in southern Sweden, while litterbags were used to quantify the total loss of C from the labelled litter. The labelled litter applied on bare lysimeters released considerable amounts of DOC during the first weeks, but the concentration of DOC originating from labelled litter decreased gradually from 176 mg litre(-1) during the first sampling period in May to 5 mg litre(-1) in the last sampling period in October. Only a moderate flush of DOC from the labelled litter occurred under the Oe and Oa horizons, with concentrations of 20 and 6 mg litre(-1) from labelled litter, equal to 19 and 9% of the total DOC flux, respectively, during the first sampling period. Total flux of DOC from labelled litter from May to September was 16 g m(-2), whereas only 2.2 and 0.9 g m(-2) were captured under the Oe and Oa horizons, respectively. The almost complete loss of new DOC implies that DOC leached from the Oe and Oa horizons consists not of recent litter-derived carbon, but of DOC produced in these two horizons themselves. Water-extractable organic carbon from labelled litter left in litterbags in the field for 4 months consisted of about one-third native carbon from external sources at the experimental site and two-thirds of the labelled litter. In contrast, the C-13 content of the bulk litter from the litterbags was not changed by the incubation in the field. We suggest that the soluble native carbon in water extracts originated from throughfall DOC that had been assimilated by microorganisms in the litterbags

Published in

European Journal of Soil Science
2007, Volume: 58, number: 1, pages: 108-114

    SLU Authors

    • Fröberg, Mats

      • Department of Forest Soils, Swedish University of Agricultural Sciences
    • UKÄ Subject classification

      Agricultural Science

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