Belowground carbon pools and dynamics in China's warm temperate and sub-tropical deciduous forests
- 1State Key Laboratory of Vegetation and Environmental Change, Institute of Botany, the Chinese Academy of Sciences, Beijing 100093, China
- 2Department of Biology, Research Group of Plant and Vegetation Ecology, University of Antwerp, Universiteitsplein 1,\newline 2610 Wilrijk, Belgium
- 3School of Life Sciences, Guizhou Normal University, Guiyang 550001, China
Abstract. We report the first estimates of pools and dynamics of microbes, roots, plant litter and soil organic carbon (SOC) in three dominant types of China's vast deciduous forest area: Betula platyphylla, Quercus liaotungensis, and Quercus aliena var. acuteserrata. Organic matter degradation rates overshadowed litter inputs as the main determinant of the soil carbon stocks. Across the three forests, rates of litter decomposition were also indicative for turnover rates of SOC. Litter and SOC decay was faster in the sub-tropical than in the warm-temperate forests. Among the latter, SOC turnover was highest in the forest producing the higher-quality litter. Microbial biomass was, as expected, correlated with SOC content. Microbial activity, in contrast, was highest at the sub-tropical forest, despite the lower SOC availability, lower fraction of labile SOC, and lower soil microbial biomass. These results may contribute to increased understanding of controls over belowground carbon cycling in deciduous forests.