Trembling aspen covers a large geographic range in North America, and previous studies reported that a better understanding of its singular influence on soil properties and processes is of high relevance for global change questions. Here we investigate the potential impact of a shift in aspen abundance on soil carbon sequestration and soil carbon stability at the continental scale by conducting a systematic literature review using 23 published studies. Our review shows that aspen’s effect on soil carbon is relatively consistent throughout the species range. Aspen stores less C in the forest floor but similar amounts in the mineral soil relative to conifers. However, a robust set of indicators of soil C stability, for example, degree of organo-mineral associations, proportion of readily-available or labile C estimated during long-term soil incubations or using hot-water extraction, pattern of soil C distribution, and temperature sensitivity of soil heterotrophic respiration, reveals that the soil organic carbon (SOC) stock under aspen is more stable, rendering it more protected against environmental changes and soil disturbances. Therefore, our continental-scale analysis highlights that an increase in the abundance of trembling aspen in North American forests may increase the resistance and resilience of soil C stocks against global changes.
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