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Physical, Chemical, and Biological Properties of Soil under Decaying Wood in a Tropical Wet Forest in Puerto Rico

Zalamea, M., G. González and D. J. Lodge. 2016.


Decaying wood is related to nutrient cycling through its role as either a sink or source of nutrients. However, at micro scales, what is the effect of decaying logs on the physical, chemical, and biotic characteristics of the soil underneath? We took samples from a 0 to 5 cm depth under and a 50 cm distance away from decaying logs (Dacryodes excelsa and Swietenia macrophylla) at 2 stages of decay, and measured soil temperature, total and available nutrients, and root length in a tropical wet forest. We found decaying wood affected physical, chemical, and biotic properties of the underlying soil. Soil temperature was less variable under the decaying logs than away from the logs. Soil under the decaying wood had fewer roots, and lower NO- and Mg2+ availability than samples collected a distance of 50 cm away from the logs. Tree species and decay stage were important factors defining the effect of decaying wood on the distribution of available nutrients. Ca2+ , Mg2+ , and K+ levels were higher in the soil associated with the youngest logs, and were higher near S. macrophylla logs. Heavy metals were also higher in the soil located near the younger logs independent of the species; other metal ions such as Al3+ and Fe3+ were higher in the soil associated with D. excelsa and the oldest logs. These results indicate decaying wood can contribute to and generate spatial heterogeneity of soil properties.

Key Words

coarse woody debris (CWD); wood decomposition; soil properties; available nutrients; roots; microbial biomas; tropical forest; Puerto Rico