Carbon content of forest floor and mineral soil in Mediterranean Pinus spp. and Oak stands in acid soils in Northern Spain

Celia Herrero, María Belén Turrión, Valentín Pando, Felipe Bravo


Aim of study: The aim of the study was to determine the baseline carbon stock in forest floor and mineral soils in pine and oak stands in acid soils in Northern Spain.

Area of study: The study area is situated in northern Spain (42° N, 4° W) on “Paramos y Valles” region of Palencia

Material and methods: An extensive monitoring composed of 48 plots (31 in pine and 17 in oak stands) was carried out. Litter layers and mineral soil samples, at depths of 0-30 cm and 30-60 cm, were taken in each plot. An intensive monitoring was also performed by sampling 12 of these 48 plots selected taken in account species forest composition and their stand development stage. Microbial biomass C (CMB), C mineralization (CRB), and soil organic C balance at stand level were determined in surface soil samples of intensive monitoring.

Main results: No differences in soil C content were detected in the two forest ecosystems up to 60 cm depth (53.0±25.8 Mg C ha-1 in Pinus spp. plantations and 60.3±43.8 Mg C ha-1 in oak stands). However, differences in total C (CT), CMB and CRB were found in the upper 10 cm of the soils depending on the stand development stage in each species forest composition (Pinus nigra, Pinus pinaster, Pinus sylvestris and Quercus pyrenaica). Plots with high development stage exhibited significant lower metabolic quotient (qCO2), so, meant more efficient utilization of C by the microbial community. The C content in the forest floor was higher in pine stands (13.7±0.9 Mg C ha-1) than in oak stands (5.4±0.7 Mg C ha-1). A greater turnover time was found in pine ecosystems vs. oak stands. In contrast, forest floor H layer was nonexistent in oak stands.

Research highlights: Results about litterfall, forest floor and mineral soil dynamics in this paper can be used strategically to reach environmental goals in new afforestation programs and sustainable forest management approaches.

Keywords: C stocks; pine; Quercus pyrenaica; litter; metabolic quotient (qCO2).


C fixation; pine; Quercus pyrenaica; litter; metabolic quotient (qCO2).

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DOI: 10.5424/fs/2016252-09149