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Site-to-site variability and temporal trends of DOC concentrations and fluxes in temperate forest soils


Werner Borken, e-mail:


Here, we report site-to-site variability and 12–14 year trends of dissolved organic carbon (DOC) from organic layers and mineral soils of 22 forests in Bavaria, Germany. DOC concentrations in the organic layer were negatively correlated with mean annual precipitation and elevation whereas air temperature had a positive effect on DOC concentrations. DOC fluxes in subsoils increased by 3 kg ha−1 yr−1 per 100 mm precipitation or per 100 m elevation. The highest DOC concentrations were found under pine stands with mor humus. Average DOC concentrations in organic layer leachates followed the order: pine>oak>spruce>beech. However, the order was different for mean DOC fluxes (spruce>pine>oak>beech) because of varying precipitation regimes among the forest types. In 12 of 22 sites, DOC concentrations of organic layer leachates significantly increased by 0.5 to 3.1 mg C L−1 yr−1 during the sampling period. The increase in DOC concentration coincided with decreasing sulfate concentration, indicating that sulfate concentration is an important driver of DOC solubility in the organic layer of these forest sites. In contrast to the organic layer, DOC concentrations below 60 cm mineral soil depth decreased by <0.1–0.4 mg C L−1 yr−1 at eight sites. The negative DOC trends were attributed to (i) increasing adsorption of DOC by mineral surfaces resulting from desorption of sulfate and (ii) increasing decay of DOC resulting from decreasing stabilization of DOC by organo-Al complexes. Trends of DOC fluxes from organic layers were consistent with those of DOC concentrations although trends were only significant at seven sites. DOC fluxes in the subsoil were with few exceptions small and trends were generally not significant. Our results suggest that enhanced mobilization of DOC in forest floors contributed to the increase of DOC in surface waters while mineral horizons did not contribute to increasing DOC export of forest soils.