Plant-soil feedback in spruce (Picea abies) and mixed spruce-beech (Fagus sylvatica) stands as indicated by dendrochemistry

Berger, T.W.; Kollensperger, G.; Wimmer, R.

Plant and Soil 264(1/2): 69-83


ISSN/ISBN: 0032-079X
DOI: 10.1023/b:plso.0000047714.43253.25
Accession: 004272635

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Ten pairs of secondary pure spruce (Picea abies) and adjacent mixed spruce-beech (Fagus sylvatica) stands on comparable sites were selected on two different bedrocks for soil formation (Flysch: nutrient rich and high soil pH; Molasse: poor nutrient supply and acidic) to study how an admixture of beech to spruce stands affects nutrient cycling and consequently soil chemistry. Soil analyses indicated accumulation of Ca under the mixed stands while the top soil under pure spruce was acidified. It was hypothesized that changes of soil chemical properties due to species composition over the last six decades are reflected in the stem wood of spruce. Three healthy dominant spruce trees per plot were selected for coring. Cores were crossdated and half-decadal samples were analyzed for Ca, Mg, Mn and Al. Calcium and Mg concentrations in stem wood of spruce were significantly higher for the pure spruce than for the mixed stands in spite of lower Ca and Mg stores in the soil. We assume that acidification caused by pure spruce mobilized these cations temporarily, increasing soil solution contents and consequently stem wood concentrations. It was possible to reconstruct soil pH from the element ratios Ca/Al (pure stands) and Ca/Mg (mixed stands), since these ratios in the stem wood of the last half-decade did correlate with soil pH for selected soil depths. Reconstructed soil pH showed a decline over the last 60 years under both species compositions due to accumulation of base cations in the increasing biomass. Comparisons of reconstructed soil pH in 0-5 and 10-20 cm soil depth indicated more pronounced top soil acidification (lower soil pH in 0-5 cm) by spruce on the nutrient rich soil (Flysch) than on the acidic soil (Molasse). However, admixture of beech caused higher pH values in 0-5 cm than in 10-20 cm soil depth on Flysch due to the observed Ca-pump effect of beech (uptake of Ca from deeper soil horizons).