Fifteen-Year Patterns of Soil Carbon and Nitrogen Following Biomass Harvesting
The substitution of forest-derived woody biofuels for fossil fuel energy has garnered increasing attention in recent years, but information regarding the mid- and long-term effects on soil productivity is limited. We investigated 15-yr temporal trends in forest floor and mineral soil (0–30 cm) C and N pools in response to organic matter removal treatments (OMR; stem-only harvest, SOH; whole-tree harvest, WTH; and whole-tree plus forest floor removal, FFR) at three edaphically distinct aspen (Populus tremuloides Michx. and P. grandidentata Michx.) forests in the Great Lakes region. The OMR and temporal effects were generally site specific, and both were most evident in the forest floor and combined profile (mineral soil and forest floor) compared with the mineral soil alone. Forest floor and combined profile C and N pools were generally similar in the SOH and WTH treatments, suggesting that slash retention has little impact on soil C and N in this time frame. Temporal changes in C and N at one of the three sites were consistent with patterns documented following exotic earthworm invasion, but mineral soil pools at the other two sites were stable over time. Power analyses demonstrated that significant effects were more likely to be detected for temporal differences than the effects of OMR and in the combined profile than in the mineral soil. Our findings are consistent with previous work demonstrating that OMR effects on soil C and N pools are site specific and more apparent in the forest floor than the mineral soil.