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Mulching-induced preservation of soil organic matter quality in a burnt eucalypt plantation in central Portugal

AuthorsRosa Arranz, José M. de la ; Jiménez Morillo, N. T. ; González-Pérez, José Antonio ; Almendros Martín, Gonzalo ; Vieira, D.; Knicker, Heike ; Keizer, Jan Jacob
Humic acids
Pyrogenic carbon
Issue Date1-Feb-2019
CitationJournal of Environmental Management 231: 1135-1144 (2019)
AbstractMulching has amply proven its effectiveness to mitigate post-fire soil erosion but its impacts on soil organic matter (SOM) quality and quantity continue poorly studied. The present study addressed this knowledge gap for a eucalypt plantation in central Portugal that had been burnt and, immediately after the wildfire, mulched with 13.6 Mg ha−1 of eucalypt logging residues some five years before. This was done by performing a range of analytical techniques (elemental and isotope analyses, analytical pyrolysis and 13C NMR spectroscopy) not only on the bulk soil samples but also on their humic acids (HAs) and free organic matter (FOM) fractions. While mulching reduced soil and SOM losses with 91 and 93%, respectively, it also improved SOM quality of the topsoil, in particular in terms of HAs and FOM. At 0–4 cm depth, both HAs and FOM contents were roughly twice as high in the mulched plots as in the control plots. The effects of mulching on the molecular composition of HAs and FOM fractions, however, varied markedly. Analytical pyrolysis (Py-GC/MS) revealed that mulching had led to a noticeable accumulation of labile, aliphatic SOM constituents such as carbohydrate-derived and alkyl compounds (fatty acids and n-alkanes) but that it hardly affected the composition of HAs. Even so, solid-state 13C NMR spectroscopy showed that mulching had resulted in a relative increase in aryl C in the FOM fraction, suggesting an enhanced preservation of the pyrogenic OM. Overall, the combined use of a range of analytical techniques allowed to conclude that, five years after their application, the forest logging residues had led to a greater preservation of the fire-derived pyrogenic OM (mainly aromatic compounds) in the topsoil as well as to higher contents of SOM's most labile molecular constituents (mainly carbohydrates and n-alkyl compounds). The former reflected the reduced erosion rates, while the latter was probably due to a combination of reduced erosion rates with the additional input of fresh organic matter.
Description10 páginas.-- 3 figuras.-- 3 tablas.-- referencias.-- Supplementary data to this article can be found online at https://doi.org/10.1016/j.jenvman.2018.10.114
Publisher version (URL)http://dx.doi.org/10.1016/j.jenvman.2018.10.114
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