Effects of litter manipulation in a tropical Eucalyptus plantation on leaching of mineral nutrients, dissolved organic nitrogen and dissolved organic carbon
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Although many studies have shown that soil solution chemistry can be a reliable indicator of biogeochemical cycling in forest ecosystems, the effects of litter manipulations on the fluxes of dissolved elements in gravitational soil solutions have rarely been investigated. We estimated the fluxes of NH4-N, NO3-N, K, Ca, Mg, Na, Cl, dissolved organic nitrogen (DON) and dissolved organic carbon (DOC) over the first two years after re-planting Eucalyptus trees in the coastal area of Congo. Two treatments were replicated in two blocks after clear-cutting 7-year-old stands: in treatment R, all the litter above the mineral soil was removed before planting, and in a double slash (DS) treatment, the amount of harvest residues was doubled. The soil solutions were sampled down to a depth of 4 m and the water fluxes were estimated using the Hydrus 1D model parameterized from soil moisture measurements in 4 plots. Isotopic and spectroscopic analytical techniques were used to assess the changes in dissolved organic matter (DOM) properties throughout the transfer in the soil. The first year after planting, the fluxes of NH4-N, K, Ca, Mg, Na, Cl and DOC in the topsoil of the DS treatment were 2-5 times higher than in R, which showed that litter was a major source of dissolved nutrients. Nutrient fluxes in gravitational solutions decreased sharply in the second year after planting, irrespective of the soil depth, as a result of intense nutrient uptake by Eucalyptus trees. Losses of dissolved nutrients were noticeably low in these Eucalyptus plantations despite a low cation exchange capacity, a coarse soil texture and large amounts of harvest residues left on-site at the clear cut in the DS treatment. All together, these results clarified the strong effect of litter manipulation observed on eucalypt growth in Congolese sandy soils. DOM fluxes, as well as changes in delta C-13, C:N and aromaticity of DOM throughout the soil profile showed that the organic compounds produced in the litter layer were mainly consumed by microorganisms or retained in the topsoil. Below a depth of 15 cm, most of the DOC and the DON originated from the first 2 cm of the soil and the exchanges between soil solutions and soil organic matter were low. (C) 2014 Elsevier B.V. All rights reserved.