Carbon and nitrogen in forest floor and mineral soil under four forest species in the Mediterranean region


The organic and mineral horizons of soils are of great importance in C and N storage in forest areas. However, knowledge of the effects of forest species on the stocks of these elements is still scarce, especially in Portugal. In order to contribute to this knowledge, a study was carried out in forest stands of Pinus pinaster Aiton (PP), Pinus nigra Arnold (PN), Pseudotsuga menziesii (PM) and Castanea sativa Miller (CS), installed in the 1950s in northern Portugal. Sampling areas with similar topography, lithology and climate were selected, in order to better identify hypothesized differences in C and N storage due to forest species effect. In each stand, 15 sites were selected randomly and the forest floor (organic layers) was collected in a 0.49 m2 area. The layers H, L and F of the forest floor were identified and, for L and F, their components were separated in leaves, pine cones/chestnut husks and branches. At the same sites, soil samples were also collected at 0-10 and 10-20 cm depth. At these depths, undisturbed samples were also collected for bulk density determination. The concentrations of C and N were determined in forest floor and mineral components of the soil, and converted in mass per unit area. The quantity of C storage per unit area followed the sequence PN > PM > CS > PP, while for N the sequence was CS > PM > PN > PP, OM and PP keeping the same relative position in the sequence in both C and N concentrations. The PM and CS species store similar amounts of C and N, and about 90% of these elements is found in the upper 20 cm of the mineral soil. In PN and PP species, the contribution of forest floor to the storage of these elements is more expressive than in the other species, but lower than 30% in all cases.


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