Impact of deadwood decomposition on soil organic carbon sequestration in Estonian and Polish forests

The deadwood of different tree species with different decomposition rates affects soil organic carbon sequestration in Estonian and Polish forests. In warmer conditions (Poland), the deadwood decomposition process had a higher rate than in cooler Estonian forests. Soil organic matter fractions analysis can be used to assess the stability and turnover of organic carbon between deadwood and soil in different experimental localities.

Context Deadwood is an important element of properly functioning forest ecosystem and plays a very important role in the maintenance of biodiversity, soil fertility, and carbon sequestration.
Aims The main aim was to estimate how decomposition of deadwood of different tree species with different decomposition rates affects soil organic carbon sequestration in Estonian and Polish forests.
Methods The investigation was carried out in six forests in Poland (51° N) and Estonia (58° N). The study localities differ in their mean annual air temperature (of 2 °C) and the length of the growing season (of 1 month). The deadwood logs of Norway spruce (Picea abies (L.) Karst.), common aspen (Populus tremula L.), and silver birch (Betula pendula Roth) were included in the research. Logs in three stages of decomposition (III–V) were selected for the analysis.
Results There were differences in the stock of soil organic carbon in two experimental localities. There was a higher soil carbon content under logs and in their direct vicinity in Polish forests compared to those in the cooler climate of Estonia. Considerable differences in the amount of soil organic matter were found. The light fraction constituted the greatest quantitative component of organic matter of soils associated with deadwood.
Conclusion A higher carbon content in surface soil horizons as an effect of deadwood decomposition was determined for the Polish (temperate) forests. More decomposed deadwood affected soil organic matter stabilization more strongly than less decayed deadwood. This relationship was clearer in Polish forests. Higher temperatures and longer growing periods primarily influenced the increase of soil organic matter free light fraction concentrations directly under and in close proximity to logs of the studied species. The slower release of deadwood decomposition products was noted in Estonian (hemiboreal) forests. The soil organic matter mineral fraction increased under aspen and spruce logs at advanced decomposition in Poland.

Carbon accumulation, Decomposition stage, Soil organic matter fractions

Open-access Publication
Błońska, E., Lasota, J., Tullus, A. et al. Annals of Forest Science (2019) 76: 102.

Data availability
The datasets generated during the current study are available in the Zenodo repository (Błońska et al. 2019) at

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