Research Highlight: Changes in soil biogeochemistry following disturbance by girdling and mountain pine beetles in subalpine forests

A recent article in Oecolgia assessed the impacts of recent beetle epidemics on soil biogeochemistry of subalpine lodgepole pine forests of the Rocky Mountains. Impacts of disturbance were assessed following natural pine beetle outbreaks, as well as simulated disturbance via bole girdling. In the first 4 years after disturbance, the authors observed declines in soil dissolved organic carbon (DOC), microbial carbon biomass, dissolved organic nitrogen (DON) and inorganic phosphorus and increases in soil ammonium. After 5-6 years, DOC, DON and organic phosphorus levels recovered to 71-140% undisturbed levels. Recovery of soil nutrient levels coincided with increases in litter depth and the soil O-horizon. The authors concluded that documented declines in soil respiration following disturbance coincide with losses in soil nutrients. These nutrients may not recover for several years following the disturbance event, and are correlated with mineralization of tree litter.

Full citation:
Trahan NA, EL Dynes, E Pugh, DJP Moore, RK Monson (2015) Changes in soil biogeochemistry following disturbance by girdling and mountain pine beetles in subalpine forests. Oecologia, DOI: 10.1007/s00442-015-3227-4

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