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Forests 2014, 5(4), 666-688; doi:10.3390/f5040666
Article

Soil Organic Carbon Storage and Stability in the Aspen-Conifer Ecotone in Montane Forests in Utah, USA

*  and
Department of Wildland Resources and Ecology Center, Utah State University, Logan, UT 84322-5230, USA
* Author to whom correspondence should be addressed.
Received: 24 January 2014 / Revised: 21 March 2014 / Accepted: 26 March 2014 / Published: 8 April 2014
(This article belongs to the Special Issue Forest and Wood Vegetation Carbon Stores and Sequestration)
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Abstract

To assess the potential impact of conifer encroachment on soil organic carbon (SOC) dynamics and storage in montane aspen-conifer forests from the interior western US, we sampled mineral soils (0–15 cm) across the aspen-conifer ecotones in southern and northern Utah and quantified total SOC stocks, stable SOC (i.e., mineral-associated SOC (MoM)), labile SOC (i.e., light fraction (LF), decomposable (CO2 release during long-term aerobic incubations) and soluble SOC (hot water extractable organic carbon (HWEOC)). Total SOC storage (47.0 ± 16.5 Mg C ha−1) and labile SOC as LF (14.0 ± 7.10 Mg C ha−1), SOC decomposability (cumulative released CO2-C of 5.6 ± 3.8 g C g−1 soil) or HWEOC (0.6 ± 0.6 mg C g−1 soil) did not differ substantially with vegetation type, although a slight increase in HWEOC was observed with increasing conifer in the overstory. There were statistically significant differences (p = 0.035) in stable MoM storage, which was higher under aspen (31.2 ± 15.1 Mg C ha−1) than under conifer (22.8 ± 9.0 Mg C ha−1), with intermediate values under mixed (25.7 ± 8.8 Mg C ha−1). Texture had the greatest impact on SOC distribution among labile and stable fractions, with increasing stabilization in MoM and decreasing bio-availability of SOC with increasing silt + clay content. Only at lower silt + clay contents (40%–70%) could we discern the influence of vegetation on MoM content. This highlights the importance of chemical protection mechanisms for long-term C sequestration.
Keywords: Populus tremuloides; conifer encroachment; soil organic carbon; SOC stabilization; mineral-associated SOC; SOC decomposability; mixed aspen-conifer forests Populus tremuloides; conifer encroachment; soil organic carbon; SOC stabilization; mineral-associated SOC; SOC decomposability; mixed aspen-conifer forests
This is an open access article distributed under the Creative Commons Attribution License which permits unrestricted use, distribution, and reproduction in any medium, provided the original work is properly cited.

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MDPI and ACS Style

Dobarco, M.R.; Van Miegroet, H. Soil Organic Carbon Storage and Stability in the Aspen-Conifer Ecotone in Montane Forests in Utah, USA. Forests 2014, 5, 666-688.

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