Decadal-scale changes in forest soil carbon and nitrogen storage are influenced by organic matter removal during timber harvest Academic Article uri icon


  • 2017. American Geophysical Union. All Rights Reserved. This study investigates whether different intensities of organic matter removal associated with timber harvest influence decadal-scale storage of soil organic carbon (SOC) and total nitrogen (TN) in the top 1m of mineral soil 18years postharvest in a Pinus taeda L. forest in the Gulf Coastal Plain. We quantified forest harvest-related changes in SOC, TN, microbial biomass carbon (MBC), and nitrogen (MBN) pools (0100cm) in unharvested control stands and in two organic matter removal treatment stands subjected to either (i) merchantable bole/stem-only harvest or (ii) whole-tree harvest+forest floor removal. In addition, 13C of SOC and 15N of TN were measured in mineral soil to provide insights regarding mechanisms that might explain changes in SOC and TN pool sizes. Soils were sampled seasonally for 1year. Increasing organic matter removal intensity reduced SOC, TN, MBC, and MBN relative to the unharvested control. Furthermore, soils from whole-tree harvest+forest floor removal stands had lower 13C and higher 15N values, suggesting that increasing organic matter removal may decrease heterotrophic activity as well as increase rates of N loss. Seasonal variabilities in SOC and TN were correlated to changes in forest biological properties such as root biomass and forest floor mass. These results indicate that more intensive harvest methods may lead to decade-scale decreases in SOC and TN storage in surface and subsurface soils which could influence rates of biogeochemical processes, the availability of soil nutrients, and potential forest productivity.

published proceedings


altmetric score

  • 9.05

author list (cited authors)

  • Mushinski, R. M., Boutton, T. W., & Scott, D. A.

citation count

  • 13

complete list of authors

  • Mushinski, Ryan M||Boutton, Thomas W||Scott, D Andrew

publication date

  • April 2017