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Forests 2015, 6(6), 1949-1965; doi:10.3390/f6061949

Soil Chemical and Microbial Properties in a Mixed Stand of Spruce and Birch in the Ore Mountains (Germany)—A Case Study

1
TU Dresden, Institute of Soil Science and Site Ecology, Pienner Straße 19, 01737 Tharandt, Germany
2
Southern Swedish Forest Research Centre, Swedish University of Agricultural Sciences, Box 49, 23053 Alnarp, Sweden
3
TU Dresden, Institute of Silviculture and Forest Protection, Pienner Straße 8, 01737 Tharandt, Germany
*
Author to whom correspondence should be addressed.
Academic Editors: Philip J. Polglase and Eric J. Jokela
Received: 19 January 2015 / Revised: 5 May 2015 / Accepted: 21 May 2015 / Published: 1 June 2015
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Abstract

A major argument for incorporating deciduous tree species in coniferous forest stands is their role in the amelioration and stabilisation of biogeochemical cycles. Current forest management strategies in central Europe aim to increase the area of mixed stands. In order to formulate statements about the ecological effects of mixtures, studies at the stand level are necessary. In a mixed stand of Norway spruce (Picea abies (L.) Karst.) and silver birch (Betula pendula Roth) in the Ore Mountains (Saxony, Germany), the effects of these two tree species on chemical and microbial parameters in the topsoil were studied at one site in the form of a case study. Samples were taken from the O layer and A horizon in areas of the stand influenced by either birch, spruce or a mixture of birch and spruce. The microbial biomass, basal respiration, metabolic quotient, pH-value and the C and N contents and stocks were analysed in the horizons Of, Oh and A. Significantly higher contents of microbial N were observed in the Of and Oh horizons in the birch and in the spruce-birch strata than in the stratum containing only spruce. The same was found with respect to pH-values in the Of horizon and basal respiration in the Oh horizon. Compared to the spruce stratum, in the birch and spruce-birch strata, significantly lower values were found for the contents of organic C and total N in the A horizon. The findings of the case study indicated that single birch trees have significant effects on the chemical and microbial topsoil properties in spruce-dominated stands. Therefore, the admixture of birch in spruce stands may distinctly affect nutrient cycling and may also be relevant for soil carbon sequestration. Further studies of these functional aspects are recommended. View Full-Text
Keywords: birch; spruce; tree species effects; pH-value; soil respiration; humus; topsoil birch; spruce; tree species effects; pH-value; soil respiration; humus; topsoil
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. (CC BY 4.0).

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MDPI and ACS Style

Schua, K.; Wende, S.; Wagner, S.; Feger, K.-H. Soil Chemical and Microbial Properties in a Mixed Stand of Spruce and Birch in the Ore Mountains (Germany)—A Case Study. Forests 2015, 6, 1949-1965.

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