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Journal of Environmental Quality Abstract - Ecological Risk Assessment

Leaching of Dissolved Organic Carbon and Carbon Dioxide Emission after Compost Application to Six Nutrient-Depleted Forest Soils


This article in JEQ

  1. Vol. 33 No. 1, p. 89-98
    Received: Dec 23, 2002

    * Corresponding author(s): werner.borken@bitoek.uni-bayreuth.de
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  1. Werner Borken *a,
  2. Yi-Jun Xub and
  3. Friedrich Beesec
  1. a Department of Soil Ecology, BITÖK, University of Bayreuth, Dr. Hans-Frisch-Straße 1-3, 95440 Bayreuth, Germany
    b School of Renewable Natural Resources, Louisiana State University AgCenter, Baton Rouge, LA 70803
    c Institute of Soil Science and Forest Nutrition, University of Göttingen, Büsgenweg 2, 37077 Göttingen, Germany


The objective of this study was to assess the effect of compost application on soil respiration and dissolved organic carbon (DOC) output of nutrient-depleted forest soils. An amount of 6.3 kg m−2 mature compost was applied to the forest floor of European beech (Fagus sylvatica L.), Norway spruce (Picea abies Karst.), and Scots pine (Pinus sylvestris L.) stands at Solling and Unterlüß, Germany. Cumulative soil respiration significantly increased by 499 g C m−2 in the spruce stand at Unterlüß and by 274 g C m−2 in the beech stand at Solling following compost application whereas soil respiration of the other four stands was not affected. The increases in soil respiration of the two stands were explained by improved microbial decomposition of soil organic matter. The DOC concentrations and fluxes in throughfall and seepage water at 10- and 100-cm depths were determined from August 1997 to March 2000. In the control plots, cumulative DOC outputs at 10 cm ranged between 57 and 95 g C m−2, with the highest rates in the pine stands. Compost treatment significantly increased cumulative DOC outputs by 31 to 69 g C m−2 at 10 cm and by 0.3 to 6.6 g C m−2 at 100 cm. The mineral soils between the 10- and 100-cm depths acted as significant sinks for DOC, as shown by much lower cumulative outputs at 100 cm of 3 to 11 g C m−2 in the control and 6 to 16 g C m−2 in the compost plots. Our results suggest that a single, moderate application of mature compost to nutrient-depleted forest soils has little effect on C losses to the atmosphere and ground water.

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