Disturbances can control fine-scale pedodiversity in old-growth forests: is the soil evolution theory disturbed as well?
Biota–soil interactions in natural ecosystems are the subject of considerable research. Our hypothesis is that individual trees play a significant role through biomechanical and biochemical disturbances affecting soil formation in temperate forests, resulting in a complex spatial pattern of disturbance regimes and a close relationship between disturbance histories and soil units.
In Žofínský Prales (Czech Republic) – the fourth oldest, continuously protected reserve in Europe and the first site of global research network SIGEO (Smithsonian Institution Global Earth Observatories) in continental Europe – we compared extensive dendrochronological, soil and pit–mound microtopography data both temporally and spatially from an area of anthropogenically unaffected 42 ha collected from 2008–2012. These data sets differ in terms of information complexity and length of memory: tree cores contain complex information about the disturbance history of the past 350 years, footprints of disturbances from the uprooting of a specific tree can persist 1700 years, and soils represent an extensive composite phenotype that has been developing for at least the entire postglacial period (10 500 years).
On average, 6.18–13.41% of the canopy on individual soil units was disturbed per decade. Even though the "backbone" of key events in the development of the forest ecosystem remained the same (e.g. the 1870s, 1880s and 1980s), the internal structure of disturbance history often differed among soil units; the most exceptional were Gleysols and Histosols, where important feedback from soil to trees was expected. However, the characteristics of treethrow dynamics as well as the frequencies of stronger releases in core series also significantly differed along a gradient of terrestrial soil weathering and leaching (Haplic Cambisols – Dystric Cambisols – Entic Podzols – Albic Podzols). These results suggest the existence of several disturbance regimes within the forest, controlling fine-scale pedodiversity.