Citation Friggens NL, Aspray TJ, Parker TC, Subke J & Wookey PA (2019) Spatial patterns in soil organic matter dynamics are shaped by mycorrhizosphere interactions in a treeline forest. Plant and Soil. https://doi.org/10.1007/s11104-019-04398-y
In the Swedish sub-Arctic, mountain birch (Betula pubescens ssp. czerepanovii) forests mediate rapid soil C cycling relative to adjacent tundra heaths, but little is known about the role of individual trees within forests. Here we investigate the spatial extent over which trees influence soil processes.
We measured respiration, soil C stocks, root and mycorrhizal productivity and fungi:bacteria ratios at fine spatial scales along 3 m transects extending radially from mountain birch trees in a sub-Arctic ecotone forest. Root and mycorrhizal productivity was quantified using in-growth techniques and fungi:bacteria ratios were determined by qPCR.
Neither respiration, nor root and mycorrhizal production, varied along transects. Fungi:bacteria ratios, soil organic C stocks and standing litter declined with increasing distance from trees.
As 3 m is half the average size of forest gaps, these findings suggest that forest soil environments are efficiently explored by roots and associated mycorrhizal networks of B. pubescens. Individual trees exert influence substantially away from their base, creating more uniform distributions of root, mycorrhizal and bacterial activity than expected. However, overall rates of soil C accumulation do vary with distance from trees, with potential implications for spatio-temporal soil organic matter dynamics and net ecosystem C sequestration.