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Research article2013Peer reviewedOpen access

Carbon and nitrogen pools and fluxes above and below ground in spruce, pine and birch stands in southern Sweden

Hansson, Karna; Fröberg, Mats; Helmisaari, Heljä-Sisko; Berggren Kleja, Dan; Olsson, Bengt; Olsson, Mats; Persson, Tryggve


We synthesised results on soil carbon (C) and nitrogen (N) fluxes and the accumulation of soil organic C and N under adjacent 50-year-old Norway spruce, Scots pine and silver birch stands growing on similar soils and evaluated the different processes involved. C and N budgets were calculated. Spruce stands had larger stocks of C and N in biomass and soil than birch stands, with pine intermediate. The differences in soil stocks were mainly found in the organic layer, whereas differences in the mineral soil were small. The study showed that there is no simple answer to what is causing the differences in soil C and N stocks, because several processes are interacting. Spruce and pine trees had higher biomass and litter production than birch trees, but total litter inputs showed no significant difference between stands, because the rich ground vegetation under pine and birch contributed with substantial litter inputs, in contrast to the poor ground vegetation under spruce. Decomposition rate (per g of C) was markedly higher under birch than under spruce and pine resulting in lower C and N stocks in the organic layer. This effect was amplified by higher abundance and biomass of earthworms, favoured by higher pH and palatable litter under birch. Earthworm bioturbation probably both increased decomposition rate and damaged the ectomycorrhizal network with negative consequences for the formation of mycorrhizal litter and C storage. In conclusion, the direct effects of spruce, pine and birch litter on C and N pools and fluxes were modified by indirect effects of understorey structure, pH and earthworm responses. (C) 2013 Elsevier B.V. All rights reserved.


Pinus sylvestris; Picea abies; Betula pendula; Carbon; Nitrogen; Soil

Published in

Forest Ecology and Management
2013, Volume: 309, pages: 28-35