15 Nov 2021
15 Nov 2021
Status: a revised version of this preprint is currently under review for the journal BG.

Dynamics of Rare Earths and associated major and trace elements during Douglas-fir (Pseudotsuga menziesii) and European beech (Fagus sylvatica L.) litter degradation

Alessandro Montemagno1,3, Christophe Hissler1, Victor Bense3, Adriaan J. Teuling3, Johanna Ziebel2, and Laurent Pfister1 Alessandro Montemagno et al.
  • 1CATchment and ecohydrology research group (CAT/ENVISION/ERIN), Luxembourg Institute of Science and Technology, Belvaux, 4408, Luxembourg
  • 2Biotechnologies and Environmental Analytics Platform (BEAP/ERIN), Luxembourg Institute of Science and Technology, Belvaux, 4408, Luxembourg
  • 3Department of Environmental Sciences, subdivision Hydrology and Quantitative Water Management (HWQM), Wageningen University and Research, Droevendaalsesteeg 4, Wageningen, 6708 PB, The Netherlands

Abstract. Given the diverse physico-chemical properties of elements, we hypothesize that their incoherent distribution across the leaf tissues, combined with the distinct resistance to degradation that each tissue exhibits, leads to distinct turnover rates between elements. Moreover, litter layers of different ages produce diverse chemical signatures in solution during the wet degradation. To verify our hypothesis, Na, K, Mg, Mn, Ca, Pb, Al and Fe were analysed together with the Rare Earth Elements (REE) in the solid fractions and in the respective leachates of fresh leaves and different humus layers of two forested soils developed under Pseudotsuga menziesii and Fagus sylvatica L. trees. The results from the leaching experiment were also compared to the in situ REE composition of the soil solutions to clarify the impact that the litter degradation processes may have on soil solution chemical compositions.

Our results clearly show that REE, Al, Fe and Pb were preferentially retained in the solid litter material, in comparison to the other cations, and that their concentrations increased over time during the litter degradation. Accordingly, different litter fractions produced different yields of elements and REE patterns in the leachates, indicating that the tree species and the age of the litter play a role in the chemical release during the degradation. In particular, the evolution of the REE patterns according to the age of the litter layers allowed us to deliver new findings on REE fractionation and mobilization during litter degradation. In particular, the LaN/YbN ratio highlights differences in litter degradation intensity between both tree species, which was not shown with major cations. We finally showed the primary control effect that litter degradation can have on the REE composition of the soil solution, which presents a positive Ce anomaly associated with the dissolution and/or transportation of Ce-enriched MnO2 particles accumulated onto the surface of the old litter due to white fungi activity. Similar MREE and HREE enrichments were also found in the leachates and the soil solution, probably due to their higher affinity to the organic acids, which represent the primary products from the organic matter degradation.

Alessandro Montemagno et al.

Status: final response (author comments only)

Comment types: AC – author | RC – referee | CC – community | EC – editor | CEC – chief editor | : Report abuse
  • RC1: 'Comment on bg-2021-268', Olivier Pourret, 06 Dec 2021
    • AC1: 'Reply on RC1', Alessandro Montemagno, 17 Dec 2021
  • RC2: 'Comment on bg-2021-268', Anonymous Referee #2, 02 Feb 2022
    • AC2: 'Reply on RC2', Alessandro Montemagno, 08 Feb 2022
      • RC3: 'Reply on AC2', Anonymous Referee #2, 08 Feb 2022
        • AC3: 'Reply on RC3', Alessandro Montemagno, 28 Feb 2022

Alessandro Montemagno et al.

Data sets

Supplementary material for Dynamics of Rare Earth Elements and associated major cations during Douglas-fir (Pseudotsuga menziesii) and European beech (Fagus sylvatica L.) litter degradation. Christophe Hissler, Alessandro Montemagno

Alessandro Montemagno et al.


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Short summary
We investigated the biogeochemical processes that dominate the release and the retention of elements (nutrients and potentially toxic) during the litter degradation. Our results show that toxic elements are retained in the litter, while nutrients are released in solution during the first stages of degradation. This seems linked to the capability of trees to distribute the elements between degradation resistant and non degradation-resistant compounds of leaves, according to their chemical nature.