Stand scale variability of topsoil organic matter composition in a high-elevation Norway spruce forest ecosystem

Spielvogel, Sandra; Prietzel, Jörg; Kögel-Knabner, Ingrid (2016). Stand scale variability of topsoil organic matter composition in a high-elevation Norway spruce forest ecosystem. Geoderma, 267, pp. 112-122. Elsevier Science 10.1016/j.geoderma.2015.12.001

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Our knowledge about the effect of single-tree influence areas on the physicochemical properties of the underlying mineral soil in forest ecosystems is still limited. This restricts our ability to adequately estimate future changes in soil functioning due to forest management practices. We studied the stand scale spatial variation of different soil organic matter species investigated by 13C NMR spectroscopy, lignin phenol and neutral sugar analysis under an unmanaged mountainous high-elevation Norway spruce (Picea abies L.) forest in central Europe. Multivariate geostatistical approaches were applied to relate the spatial patterns of the different soil organic matter species to topographic parameters, bulk density, oxalate- and dithionite-extractable iron, pH, and the impact of tree distribution. Soil samples were taken from the mineral top soil. Generally, the stand scale distribution patterns of different soil organic matter compounds could be divided into two groups: Those compounds, which were significantly spatially correlated with topography/altitude and those with small scale spatial pattern (range ≤ 10 m) that was closely related to tree distribution. The concentration of plant-derived soil organic matter components, such as lignin, at a given sampling point was significantly spatially related to the distance of the nearest tree (p ≤ 0.05). In contrast, the spatial distribution of mainly microbial-derived compounds (e.g. galactose and mannose) could be attributed to the dominating impact of small-scale topography and the contribution of poorly crystalline iron oxides that were significantly larger in the central depression of the study site compared to crest and slope positions.

Our results demonstrate that topographic parameters dominate the distribution of overall topsoil organic carbon (OC) stocks at temperate high-elevation forest ecosystems, particularly in sloped terrain. However, trees superimpose topography-controlled OC biogeochemistry beneath their crown by releasing litter and changing soil conditions in comparison to open areas. This may lead to distinct zones with different mechanisms of soil organic matter degradation and also stabilization in forest stands.

Item Type:

Journal Article (Original Article)


08 Faculty of Science > Institute of Geography > Physical Geography > Unit Soil Science
08 Faculty of Science > Institute of Geography

UniBE Contributor:

Spielvogel, Sandra Irene


900 History > 910 Geography & travel




Elsevier Science


Monika Wälti-Stampfli

Date Deposited:

26 Apr 2016 10:20

Last Modified:

18 Aug 2016 09:54

Publisher DOI:





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