Effects of plant leachates from four boreal understorey species on soil N mineralization, and white spruce (Picea glauca) germination and seedling growth

Castells E., Peñuelas J., Valentine D.W. (2005) Effects of plant leachates from four boreal understorey species on soil N mineralization, and white spruce (Picea glauca) germination and seedling growth. Annals of Botany. 95: 1247-1252.
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Doi: 10.1093/aob/mci139

Resum:

• Background and Aims: Natural regeneration of white spruce (Picea glauca) after disturbance has been reported to be very poor. Here a study was made to determine whether C compounds released from understorey species growing together with white spruce could be involved in this regeneration failure, either by (1) changing soil nutrient dynamics, (2) inhibiting germination, and/or (3) delaying seedling growth. • Methods: Foliage leachates were obtained from two shrubs (Ledum palustre and Empetrum hermaphroditum) and one bryophyte (Sphagnum sp.) with high phenolic compound concentrations that have been reported to depress growth of conifers in boreal forests, and, as a comparison, one bryophyte (Hylocomium splendens) with negligible phenolic compounds. Mineral soil from a white spruce forest was amended with plant leachates to examine the effect of each species on net N mineralization. Additionally, white spruce seeds and seedlings were watered with plant leachates to determine their effects on germination and growth. • Key Results: Leachates from the shrubs L. palustre and E. hermaphroditum contained high phenolic compound concentrations and dissolved organic carbon (DOC), while no detectable levels of C compounds were released from the bryophytes Sphagnum sp. or H. splendens. A decrease in net N mineralization was determined in soils amended with L. palustre or E. hermaphroditum leachates, and this effect was inversely proportional to the phenolic concentrations, DOC and leachate C/N ratio. The total percentage of white spruce germination and the growth of white spruce seedlings were similar among treatments. • Conclusions: These results suggest that the shrubs L. palustre and E. hermaphroditum could negatively affect the performance of white spruce due to a decrease in soil N availability, but not by direct effects on plant physiology. © The Author 2005. Published by Oxford University Press on behalf of the Annals of Botany Company. All rights reserved.

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