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Faculty for Biology, Chemistry and Earth Sciences

Department Soil Ecology - Prof. Dr. Eva Lehndorff

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Klotzbücher, T; Strohmeier, S; Kaiser, K; Bowden, RD; Lajtha, K; Kalbitz, K: Lignin properties in topsoils of a beech/oak forest afeter 8 years of manipulated litter fall: relevance of altered input and oxidation of lignin, Plant Soil, 367, 579-589 (2013), doi:10.1007/s11104-012-1489-8
Background and aims: We studied the response of lignin oxidation in soils of a beech/oak forest to changes in litter fall. Additionally we considered possible factors in lignin oxidation, including altered (i) input of fresh organic matter and (ii) fungi-to-bacteria ratios.

Methods: The field-based experiment included (i) doubling and (ii) exclusion of litter fall and (iii) controls with ambient litter fall. Soil (0–20 cm depth) was sampled after 8 years. We analyzed (i) lignin using the CuO oxidation method, (ii) stocks of free and mineral-bound organic carbon (OC), (iii) the response of soil organic matter (SOM) decomposition to addition of labile organic compounds in laboratory incubations, and (iv) ratios of fungal- vs. bacterial-derived amino sugars (F/B ratios).

Results: Litter exclusion increased stocks of free-light fraction OC, F/B ratios, the ability of the microbial community to use labile compounds for SOM decomposition, as well as acid-to-aldehyde ratios of vanillyl-type lignin phenols in A horizons. Litter addition had no such effects. We assume that litter exclusion caused enhanced transport of organic debris from lower forest floor horizons with rainwater into the A horizon. Enhanced input of organic debris might have increased (i) the availability of labile compounds and (ii) F/B ratios. Consequently, lignin oxidation increased. Conclusions Enhanced input of organic debris from forest floors can increase lignin oxidation in mineral topsoils of the studied forest. The expected gradual changes in litter fall due to climate change likely will cause no such effects.

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