Articles | Volume 12, issue 9
Research article
07 May 2015
Research article |  | 07 May 2015

Properties of dissolved and total organic matter in throughfall, stemflow and forest floor leachate of central European forests

S. Bischoff, M. T. Schwarz, J. Siemens, L. Thieme, W. Wilcke, and B. Michalzik

Abstract. We present the first investigation of the composition of dissolved organic matter (DOM) compared to total organic matter (TOM, consisting of DOM, < 0.45 μm and particulate organic matter 0.45 μm < POM < 500 μm) in throughfall, stemflow and forest floor leachate of common beech (Fagus sylvatica L.) and Norway spruce (Picea abies (L.) H. Karst.) forests using solid-state 13C nuclear magnetic resonance (NMR) spectroscopy. We hypothesized that the composition and properties of organic matter (OM) in forest ecosystem water samples differ between DOM and TOM and between the two tree species.

The 13C NMR results, derived from 21 samples, point to pronounced differences in the composition of DOM and TOM in throughfall solution at the beech sites, with TOM exhibiting higher relative intensities for the alkyl C region, which represents aliphatic C from less decomposed organic material compared to DOM. Furthermore, TOM shows lower intensities for lignin-derived and aromatic C of the aryl C region resulting in lower aromaticity indices and a diminished degree of humification. Across the ecosystem compartments, differences in the structural composition of DOM and TOM under beech lessened in the following order: throughfall > stemflow ≈ forest floor leachate.

In contrast to the broadleaved sites, differences between DOM and TOM in throughfall solution under spruce were less pronounced and spectra were, overall, dominated by the alkyl C region, representing aliphatic C. Explanations of the reported results might be substantiated in differences in tree species-specific structural effects, leaching characteristics or differences in the microbial community of the tree species' phyllosphere and cortisphere. However, the fact that throughfall DOM under beech showed the highest intensities of recalcitrant aromatic and phenolic C among all samples analysed likely points to a high allelopathic potential of beech trees negatively affecting other organisms and hence ecosystem processes and functions.

Final-revised paper