Simulated wild boar bioturbation increases the stability of forest soil carbon

Don, Axel; Hagen, Christina; Grüneberg, Erik; Vos, Cora

Most forest soils are characterised by a steep carbon gradient from the forest floor to the mineral soil, indicating that carbon is prevented from entry into the soil. Bioturbation can facilitate the incorporation of litter-derived carbon into the mineral soil. Wild boar are effective at mixing and grubbing in the soil and wild boar populations are increasing in many parts of the world. In a 6-year field study, we investigated the effect of simulated wild boar bioturbation on the stocks and stability of soil organic carbon in two forest areas. Regular bioturbation mimicking grubbing by wild boar was performed artificially in 23 plots, and the organic layer and mineral soil down to 15 inline-formulacm depth were then sampled. No significant changes in soil organic carbon stocks were detected in the bioturbation plots compared with non-disturbed reference plots. However, around 50 % of forest floor carbon was transferred with bioturbation to mineral soil carbon, and the stock of stabilised mineral-associated carbon increased by 28 %. Thus, a large proportion of the labile carbon in the forest floor was transformed into more stable carbon. Carbon saturation of mineral surfaces was not detected, but carbon loading per unit mineral surface increased by on average 66 % in the forest floor due to bioturbation. This indicates that mineral forest soils have non-used capacity to stabilise and store carbon. Transfer of aboveground litter into the mineral soil is the only rate-limiting process. Wild boar may speed up this process with their grubbing activity.

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Don, Axel / Hagen, Christina / Grüneberg, Erik / et al: Simulated wild boar bioturbation increases the stability of forest soil carbon. 2019. Copernicus Publications.

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