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© Author(s) 2019. This work is distributed under
the Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 License.
© Author(s) 2019. This work is distributed under
the Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 License.

Submitted as: original research article 04 Dec 2019

Submitted as: original research article | 04 Dec 2019

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This discussion paper is a preprint. It is a manuscript under review for the journal SOIL (SOIL).

Boreal forest soil chemistry drives soil organic carbon bioreactivity along a 314-year fire chronosequence

Benjamin Andrieux1, David Paré2, Julien Beguin2, Pierre Grondin3, and Yves Bergeron1 Benjamin Andrieux et al.
  • 1NSERC-UQAT-UQAM Industrial Chair in SustainableForest Management, Forest Research Institute, Université du Québec en Abitibi-Témiscamingue, Rouyn-Noranda, QC, J9X5E4, Canada
  • 2Natural Resources Canada, Canadian Forest Service, Laurentian Forestry Centre, Québec, QC, G1V4C7, Canada
  • 3Ministère des Forêts, de la Faune et des Parcs, Direction de la Recherche Forestière, Québec, G1P3W8, Canada

Abstract. Following wildfire, organic carbon (C) accumulates in boreal forest soils. The long-term patterns of accumulation as well as the mechanisms responsible for continuous soil C stabilization or sequestration are poorly known. We evaluated post-fire C stock changes in functional reservoirs (bioreactive and recalcitrant) using the proportion of C mineralized in CO2 by microbes in a long-term lab incubation, as well as the proportion of C resistant to acid hydrolysis. We found that all soil C pools increased linearly with time since fire. The bioreactive and acid-insoluble soil C pools increased at a rate of 0.02 MgC ha−1 yr−1 and 0.12 MgC ha−1 yr−1, respectively, and their proportions relative to total soil C stock remained constant with time since fire (8 % and 46 %, respectively). We quantified direct and indirect causal relationships among variables and carbon bioreactivity to disentangle the relative contribution of climate, moss dominance, soil particle size distribution and soil chemical properties (pH, exchangeable Mn and Al, and metal oxides) to the variation structure of in vitro soil carbon bioreactivity. Our analyses showed that the chemical properties of Podzolic soils that characterise the study area were the best predictors of soil carbon bioreactivity. For the FH horizon (O-layer), pH and exchangeable Mn were the most important (model-averaged estimator for both: 0.34) factors directly related to soil organic C bioreactivity, followed by time since fire (0.24), moss dominance (0.08) and climate and texture (0 for both). For the mineral soil, exchangeable aluminum was the most important factor (model-averaged estimator: −0.32), followed by metal oxide (−0.27), pH (−0.25), time since fire (0.05), climate and texture (~ 0 for both). Of the four climate factors examined in this study (i.e., mean annual temperature, growing degree-days above 5 °C, mean annual precipitation and water balance) only those related to water availability, and not to temperature, had indirect effect (FH horizon) or a marginal indirect effect (mineral soil) on soil carbon bioreactivity. Given that predictions of the impact of climate change on soil carbon balance are strongly linked to the size and the bioreactivity of soil C pools, our study stresses the need to include the direct effects of soil chemistry and the indirect effects of climate and soil texture on soil C decomposition in Earth System Models to forecast the response of boreal soils to global warming.

Benjamin Andrieux et al.
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Benjamin Andrieux et al.
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Short summary
Our study aimed to disentangle the contribution of several drivers to explaining the proportion of soil carbon that can be returned to the atmosphere through microbial respiration. We found that boreal forest soil chemistry is an important driver of the amount of carbon that microbes can process. Our results emphasize the need to include the effects of soil chemistry into models of soil carbon cycling to better anticipate the role played by boreal forests in carbon cycle-climate feedbacks.
Our study aimed to disentangle the contribution of several drivers to explaining the proportion...