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Journal Article

Soil organic carbon and total nitrogen gains in an old growth deciduous forest in Germany


Schrumpf,  Marion
Soil and Ecosystem Processes, Dr. M. Schrumpf, Department Biogeochemical Processes, Prof. S. E. Trumbore, Max Planck Institute for Biogeochemistry, Max Planck Society;


Schulze,  Ernst Detlef
Emeritus Group, Prof. E.-D. Schulze, Max Planck Institute for Biogeochemistry, Max Planck Society;

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Schrumpf, M., Kaiser, K., & Schulze, E. D. (2014). Soil organic carbon and total nitrogen gains in an old growth deciduous forest in Germany. PLoS One, 9(2): e89364. doi:10.1371/journal.pone.0089364.

Cite as: https://hdl.handle.net/11858/00-001M-0000-0015-791A-2
Temperate forests are assumed to be organic carbon (OC) sinks, either because of biomass increases upon elevated CO2 in
the atmosphere and large nitrogen deposition, or due to their age structure. Respective changes in soil OC and total
nitrogen (TN) storage have rarely been proven. We analysed OC, TN, and bulk densities of 100 soil cores sampled along a
regular grid in an old-growth deciduous forest at the Hainich National Park, Germany, in 2004 and again in 2009.
Concentrations of OC and TN increased significantly from 2004 to 2009, mostly in the upper 0–20 cm of the mineral soil.
Changes in the fine earth masses per soil volume impeded the detection of OC changes based on fixed soil volumes. When
calculated on average fine earth masses, OC stocks increased by 3236146 g m22 and TN stocks by 39610 g m22 at
0–20 cm soil depth from 2004 to 2009, giving average annual accumulation rates of 65629 g OC m22 yr21 and 7.862 g N
m22 yr21. Accumulation rates were largest in the upper part of the B horizon. Regional increases in forest biomass, either
due to recovery of forest biomass from previous forest management or to fertilization by elevated CO2 and N deposition,
are likely causes for the gains in soil OC and TN. As TN increased stronger (1.3% yr21 of existing stocks) than OC (0.9% yr21),
the OC-to-TN ratios declined significantly. Results of regression analyses between changes in OC and TN stocks suggest that
at no change in OC, still 3.8 g TN m22 yr21 accumulated. Potential causes for the increase in TN in excess to OC are fixation
of inorganic N by the clay-rich soil or changes in microbial communities. The increase in soil OC corresponded on average to 6–13% of the estimated increase in net biome productivity.