Current issue: 54(2)
We studied the spatial decomposition rates of standardised organic substrates in soils (burned boreal pine-dominated sub-xeric forests in eastern Finland), with respect to charred and non-charred coarse woody debris (CWD). Decomposition rates of rooibos plant litter inside teabags (C:N = 42.870 ± 1.841) and pressed-sheet Nordic hardwood pulp (consisting of mainly alpha-cellulose) were measured at 0.2 m distance from 20 charred (LC0.2) and 40 non-charred logs (LNC0.2). We also measured decomposition at 60 plots located 3–10 m away from downed logs (L3,10). The rooibos decomposition rate constant ‘k’ was 8.4% greater at the LNC0.2 logs than at the L3,10 or LC0.2 logs. Cellulose decomposed more completely in 1 micron mesh bags at LNC0.2 (44% of buried bags had leftover material) than at LC0.2 (76%) or L3,10 (70%). Decomposition of cellulose material was rapid but varied greatly between sampling plots. Our results indicate that decomposition of the standardised organic matter was more rapid close to CWD pieces than further away. However, only the plots located near non-charred logs (LNC0.2) exhibited high decomposition rates, with no corresponding increase observed at the charred logs (LC0.2). This suggests a possible noteworthy indirect effect of forest burning on soil organic matter (SOM) decomposition rates close to charred CWD after forest fires. We urge for more studies on this tentative observation as it may affect the estimates on how fires affect carbon cycling in forests.
The objective of this project was to determine the amount of gas exchange in peat samples collected from several swamps, using the Warburg method in the laboratory measurements. Special attention was directed on the influence of the lowering of the ground water level through drainage, on oxidation-reduction conditions in the samples from both forested and treeless peatlands, by measuring oxygen uptake and CO2 release. The biological activity in situ was determined by the cellulose decomposition rate in the sample plots. The six areas examined were both in drained peatlands and peatlands in natural condition.
The results show that in the sample plots in open swamps there was no consistent differences in the CO2 release rate in peat samples taken from different depths. However, in the sample plots on forested swamps rapid decrease is seen with increasing depth. The decreased biological activity of peat is caused by the oxidation-reduction conditions. The CO2 release rate may also be due to the respiration of tree roots, which are very shallow in peatlands.
The rate of in situ cellulose decomposition experiment and CO2 release indicated by the Warburg measurements appear to be correlated. The results indicate improved conditions for cellulose-decomposing microbes after draining. It is also possible that the biological activity of peat after draining increases to a considerable depth until the decrease of easily decomposable substances limit the activity in an old drainage area. The cellulose decomposition rate would still increase as the oxidation-reduction conditions improve.