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Bauhus J., Vor T., Bartsch N. and A. Cowling (2004): The effects of gaps and liming on forest floor decomposition and soil C and N dynamics in a Fagus sylvatica Forest.

Canadian Journal of Forest Research 34, 3, 509-518.

Despite the importance of gaps in the dynamics and management of many forest types, very little is known about the medium- to long-term soil C and N dynamics associated with this disturbance. This study was designed to test the hypothesis that gap creation and lime application, a routine measure in many European forests to ameliorate soil acidity, lead to accelerated litter decomposition and thus a reduction in the forest floor and soil C and N pools. Four gaps were created in 1989 in a mature Fagus sylvatica L. forest on acid soil with a moder humus, and lime (3 t dolomite ha-1) was applied to two of these and surrounding areas. Litter and fine-root decomposition was measured in 1992-1993 and 1996-1998 using litterbags. Forest floor (L, F, and H layer) and mineral soil (0-40 cm) C and N pools were determined in 1989 and 1997. Eight years following silvicultural treatments there was no change in C and N over the entire forest soil profile including forest floor. Reductions in the F and H layer in limed gaps were compensated by increases in soil C and N in the surface (0-10 cm) mineral soil. Decomposition of F litter was significantly accelerated in limed gaps leading to the development of a mull-moder, whereas gap creation alone had no effect on mass loss of F material in litterbags. Gap-size disturbances in this acid beech forest appear to have minimal influences on soil C and N stocks. However, when combined with liming, changes in the humus form and vertical distribution of soil C and N may occur.

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