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Forests 2017, 8(1), 28; doi:10.3390/f8010028

Sampling Method and Tree-Age Affect Soil Organic C and N Contents in Larch Plantations

1
Key Laboratory of Forest Plant Ecology, Northeast Forestry University, Harbin 150040, China
2
Northeast Institute of Geography and Agricultural Ecology, Chinese Academy of Sciences, Changchun 130102, China
3
Department of Renewable Resources, University of Alberta, 442 Earth Science Building, Edmonton, AB T6G 2E3, Canada
*
Author to whom correspondence should be addressed.
Academic Editor: Timothy A. Martin
Received: 18 November 2016 / Revised: 3 January 2017 / Accepted: 11 January 2017 / Published: 17 January 2017
(This article belongs to the Special Issue Nutrient Cycling and Plant Nutrition in Forest Ecosystems)
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Abstract

We currently have a poor understanding of how different soil sampling methods (pedogenetic horizon versus fixed-depth) influence the evaluation of soil properties. Here, 159 soil profiles were sampled from larch (Larix gmelinii) plantations in northeast China using both the pedogenetic horizon and fixed-depth sampling methods. Analysis of variance was used to determine how sampling method influences the assessment of the spatial variation in the concentration and storage of soil organic C (SOC) and N (SON), as well as how these properties are affected by tree age-group (<20, 20–40, and >40 years). In both the 20 cm (surface) and 80 cm (whole profile) sampling depths, pedogenetic sampling resulted in 1.2- to 1.4-fold higher SOC and SON concentrations than fixed-depth sampling. Surface soil nutrient storage between the two sampling methods was not significantly different, but was it was 1.2-fold higher (p < 0.05) with pedogenetic sampling than with fixed-depth sampling in the whole soil profile. For a given error limit in SOC and SON assessments, fixed-depth sampling had a 60%~90% minimum sampling intensity requirement compared with pedogenetic horizon sampling. Additionally, SOC was 1.1- to 1.3-fold greater in the >40 years age-group than in the <20 years age-group (p < 0.05), while SON was the highest in the 20–40 years age-group (p < 0.05). The total amount of SOC and nutrients in soil is fixed regardless how you sample, it is the different assumptions and different ways of extrapolation from samples to the population that cause sampling by horizon versus fixed depth to lead to different conclusions. Our findings highlight that soil sampling method and tree age-group affect the determination of the spatial variation of SOC and SON and future soil assessments should control for methodological differences. View Full-Text
Keywords: Larix gmelinii; tree-age effect; degraded farmland; Northeast China; soil nutrient variation; soil heterogeneity; pedogenetic horizon; fixed-depth sampling Larix gmelinii; tree-age effect; degraded farmland; Northeast China; soil nutrient variation; soil heterogeneity; pedogenetic horizon; fixed-depth sampling
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Wang, H.; Wang, W.; Chang, S.X. Sampling Method and Tree-Age Affect Soil Organic C and N Contents in Larch Plantations. Forests 2017, 8, 28.

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