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Effects of open-top chambers and substrate type on biogeochemical processes at disturbed boreal forest sites in northwestern Quebec

Dabros, A. and J.W. Fyles . 2009. Plant and Soil 327:465-479

Abstract

Open-top chamber (OTC) climate change simulation was used to predict the potential effects of climate change on biogeochemistry, including: 1) soil decomposition of three litter types (trembling aspen (Populus tremuloides Michx.), black spruce (Picea mariana (Miller) BSP), and Sphagnum); 2) soil nutrient supply rates, and; 3) soil acidity. We assessed the effects of OTCs on these biogeochemical factors in the presence or absence of Sphagnum moss substrate at post-fire and logging sites, in the transitional mixedwood-boreal zone of northwestern Quebec. Higher air temperatures and cooler, drier soils created by the OTC treatment resulted in lower decomposition rates and a higher C:N ratio of aspen litter, and lower Ca concentrations of the Sphagnum litter after 14 months of incubation, as well as lower K concentrations of spruce litter after 24 month incubation. There were no effects of the OTC treatment on decomposition rates for Sphagnum and spruce litter. The nutrient supply rates of Ca and Mg were consistently lower in the OTCs. The supply rates of N were significantly higher in the control plots at the logging site than at any other combination of the OTC treatment and disturbance site. Soil pH was lower in the OTCs by the end of the growing seasons in 2006 and 2007. The results suggest that the impact of climatic changes, as simulated by the OTC treatment, on the soil system of mixedwood-boreal post-disturbance sites is likely to affect biogeochemical processes such as nutrient supply rates and the soil pH, but the effects on decomposition may be minimal.

Key Words

Open-top chambers, Climate change, Soil pH, Soil nutrient supply rates, Decomposition rates, Post-disturbance boreal forest sites