Changes of lignin phenols and neutral sugars in different soil types of a high-elevation forest ecosystem 25 years after forest dieback

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Abstract

Long-term effects of forest disturbance 25 yr ago on lignin and non-cellulosic polysaccharide pools in an unmanaged high-elevation Norway spruce (Picea abies L. [Karst.]) forest were investigated by comparing three dieback sites with three adjacent control sites with non-infested spruce on identical soils. Samples were taken from the forest floor and the mineral soil; one Ah horizon sample per site was physically fractionated into density and particle size fractions. Additionally, changes in the above- and belowground input of lignin and non-cellulosic polysaccharides after forest dieback were quantified. Lignin and its degree of structural alteration in plant and soil samples were assessed by CuO oxidation and subsequent analysis of the lignin phenols. Non-cellulosic polysaccharides were determined after hydrolysis with trifluoroacetic acid (TFA), derivatisation of their neutral sugar monomers by reduction to alditols, and subsequent acetylation. The total plant-derived input of lignin and non-cellulosic polysaccharides to the soil was similar for the dieback and the control sites. The chemical composition of the input has changed considerably after forest dieback, as shown by significantly higher syringyl/vanillyl (S/V) ratios and significantly lower (galactose+mannose)/(arabinose+xylose) (GM/AX) ratios. This indicates a changed plant input and a higher contribution of microbial sugars. Contents of lignin phenols in the forest floor and coarse particle size fractions of the A horizons were significantly smaller at the dieback sites (p<0.01). Moreover, larger acid-to-aldehyde ratios of vanillyl units (Ac/Al)v indicated an increased degree of lignin phenol alteration. Also contents of neutral sugars were significantly (p<0.01) smaller in the forest floor, but not in the A horizons of the dieback sites. The GM/AX mass ratios as well as the (rhamnose+fucose)/(arabinose+xylose) (RF/AX) ratios in the forest floor and coarse particle size fractions of the mineral topsoil were significantly (p<0.01) larger after forest dieback, indicating a larger relative contribution of microbial sugars. In general, the lignin phenol and neutral sugar pools of all three soil types exhibited similar response patterns to the changed site conditions. Our results demonstrate that the lignin and neutral sugar pools of humic topsoil horizons are highly sensitive to forest disturbances. However, the two compounds show different patterns in the mineral soil, with the major neutral sugar pool being stabilized against changes whereas the lignin phenol pool decreases significantly.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)655-668
Number of pages14
JournalSoil Biology and Biochemistry
Volume39
Issue number2
DOIs
StatePublished - Feb 2007

Keywords

  • Alkaline CuO-oxidation
  • Canopy loss
  • Forest soils
  • Particle size fractions
  • Polysaccharides
  • Soil carbohydrates
  • Soil organic carbon

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