See more from this Session: Management and Nutrient Relations
Wednesday, October 19, 2011: 8:00 AM
Henry Gonzalez Convention Center, Room 218, Concourse Level
Forest management practices in the southern United States have made the pine forests of the region some of the most productive in the world. This remarkable productivity makes the region attractive for offsetting anthropogenic emissions of CO2 through increased biomass capture, or through the biomass-to-fuel approach. In other agricultural systems, however, increased plant productivity from management has often corresponded to a decrease in soil carbon. Over half of a forest ecosystem’s carbon is found in the soil; therefore a decrease in soil carbon could counteract a considerable amount of the reduction in atmospheric CO2 that results from enhanced tree growth. We have examined two forestry practices, fertilization with nitrogen and phosphorus and the genetic control of planted seedlings, in terms of how these practices affect key controls on soil carbon cycling. Root biomass dynamics, soil CO2 efflux, and microbial respiration were contrasted for a “fast” and a “slow” growing family of loblolly pine receiving two different levels of fertilization at two sites in north central Florida. Our overarching hypothesis was that greater aboveground growth would correspond to increased inputs of carbon to the soil as root biomass, and a greater efflux of CO2 from roots and soil microbes. At both sites, the faster growing families supported significantly (p<0.05) more fine root biomass (<1 mm diameter) under low fertilization than did the slow growing families. However under higher levels of fertilization, the fast and the slow growing families had similar levels of fine root biomass and soil CO2 efflux. Results from this study suggest that greater aboveground growth due to genetic selection only related to greater inputs of carbon to the soil when fertilization levels were low. Radiocarbon measurements of microbial respiration indicated no differences in soil organic matter turnover among families or fertilization treatments. These results suggest that the response to management of soil carbon will be more sensitive to how fertilization or genetic selection affects carbon inputs from roots to the soil, rather than how these management strategies directly affect microbial respiration.