11 Jan 2023
11 Jan 2023
Status: this preprint is open for discussion.

Seasonal controls override forest harvesting effects on the composition of dissolved organic matter mobilized from boreal forest soil organic horizons

Keri L. Bowering1, Kate A. Edwards2, and Susan E. Ziegler1 Keri L. Bowering et al.
  • 1Department of Earth Sciences, Memorial University of Newfoundland, St. John’s, A1C 5S7, Canada
  • 2Natural Resources Canada, Canadian Forest Service, Ottawa, K1A 0E4, Canada

Abstract. Dissolved organic matter (DOM) mobilized from the organic (O) horizons of forest soils is a temporally dynamic flux of carbon (C) and nutrients, and the fate of this DOM in downstream pools is dependent on the rate and pathways of water flow as well as its chemical composition. Here, we present observations of the composition of DOM mobilized weekly to monthly from O horizons in mature forest and adjacent harvested treatment plots. The study site was experimentally harvested, without replanting, 10-years prior to this study. Thus, the treatments differ significantly in terms of forest stand and soil properties, and interact differently with the regional hydrometeorological conditions. This presented an opportunity to investigate the role of forest structure relative to environmental variation on soil DOM mobilization. On an annual basis, fluxes of total dissolved nitrogen (TDN) and dissolved organic nitrogen (DON) were largest from the warmer and thinner O horizons of the harvested (H) treatment compared to the forest (F) treatment, however, neither phosphate or ammonium fluxes differed by treatment type. On a short-term basis in both H and F treatments, all fluxes were positively correlated to water input, and all concentrations were positively correlated to soil temperature and negatively correlated to water input. Soil moisture was negatively correlated to the C : N of DOM. These results suggest common seasonal controls on DOM mobilization regardless of harvesting treatment. Optical characterization of seasonally representative samples additionally supported a stronger control of season over harvesting. The chemical character of DOM mobilized during winter and snowmelt: lower C : N, higher SUVA and lower molecular weight of CDOM (higher spectral slope ratio), was representative of relatively more decomposed DOM, compared to that mobilized in summer and autumn. This shows that the decomposition of soil organic matter underneath a consistently deep snowpack is a key determinant of the composition of DOM mobilized from O horizons during winter and the hydrologically significant snowmelt period regardless of harvesting impact. Despite the higher proportion of aromatic DOM in the snowmelt samples, the rapid delivery of DOM from O to mineral horizons suggests that the snowmelt period is not likely to be a significant period of DOM sequestration by mineral soil. Rather, the higher molecular weight, high C : N DOM mobilized during slow and relatively infrequent delivery during summer and rapid, frequent delivery during autumn are more likely to support periods of mineral soil sequestration and increased export of fresher terrestrial DOM, respectively. Understanding these seasonal dynamics improves our ability to accurately portray the role of O horizon DOM in the downstream fate of carbon. It also helps to understand and anticipate the response of soil organic matter to a rapidly changing climate in northern latitudes and could improve our ability to manage forest carbon balance.

Keri L. Bowering et al.

Status: open (until 22 Feb 2023)

Comment types: AC – author | RC – referee | CC – community | EC – editor | CEC – chief editor | : Report abuse

Keri L. Bowering et al.

Data sets

Pynn's Brook Experimental Forest Lysimeter Datasets 2103-1014 Keri L. Bowering, Kate A. Edwards, and Susan E. Ziegler's%20Brook%20Experimental%20Forest%20Lysimeters%202013-2014

Keri L. Bowering et al.


Total article views: 84 (including HTML, PDF, and XML)
HTML PDF XML Total Supplement BibTeX EndNote
61 18 5 84 16 2 4
  • HTML: 61
  • PDF: 18
  • XML: 5
  • Total: 84
  • Supplement: 16
  • BibTeX: 2
  • EndNote: 4
Views and downloads (calculated since 11 Jan 2023)
Cumulative views and downloads (calculated since 11 Jan 2023)

Viewed (geographical distribution)

Total article views: 89 (including HTML, PDF, and XML) Thereof 89 with geography defined and 0 with unknown origin.
Country # Views %
  • 1
Latest update: 26 Jan 2023
Short summary
Dissolved organic matter (DOM) mobilized from surface soils is a source of carbon (C) for deeper mineral horizons but also a mechanism of C loss. Composition of DOM mobilized in boreal forests varied more by season than as a result of forest harvesting. Results suggest reduced snowmelt and increased fall precipitation enhance DOM properties promoting mineral soil C stores. These findings, coupled with hydrology, inform on soil DOM fate and boreal forest C balance in response to climate change.