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Buried wood effects on macronutrient supply and microbial activity and metabolic potential in different oil sands reclamation soils in northern Alberta

Manchola-Rojas, L., B. D. Pinno and M. D. Mackenzie. 2023.


Buried wood is an important yet understudied component of natural and anthropogenic soils. Nutrient immobilization as a response to wood addition during oil sands' reclamation may be a concern since surface wood is salvaged with the soil, thereby becoming buried wood in reclamation cover soils. This project investigated the impact of buried wood on macronutrient supply and microbial communities in different reclamation soils. A 60-day incubation was performed with different rates and types of wood (0%-50%, aspen and pine) and four different soils: fine and coarse forest floor-mineral mix (fFFMM and cFFMM), peat-mineral mix (PMM), and peat. Analysis of macronutrient supply rates using Plant Root Simulator (PRS®) probes and a community-level physiological profiling (CLPP) to assess metabolic potential was performed at the end of the incubation period; microbial activity was measured through soil respiration during the incubation. Responses varied by soil type; however, buried wood caused nitrogen immobilization in three soils due to an increase in the C:N ratio. Soils with lower C:N ratios like fFFMM and PMM were more susceptible to immobilization with a decrease in available nitrogen by up to 95% at a 10% of wood addition. Phosphorus immobilization was observed in cFFMM, and potassium supply increased at 20% of wood and above. Soil microbial activity and metabolic potential increased but no significant changes in the soil profiles were observed. The findings of this study demonstrate that buried wood increases the soil C:N ratio and can potentially cause nitrogen immobilization when added by 10% of volume or more.

Key Words

buried wood, nitrogen availability, reclamation soils, CLPP, microbial activity