Canadian Journal of Forest Research
National Research Council Canada
A field study was conducted in a high-elevation spruce–fir (Picea rubens Sarg. – Abies fraseri (Pursh.) Poir) forest in the Great Smoky Mountains National Park to assess the effect of temperature on soil C storage and dynamics. In eight plots along an elevation gradient (1500–1900 m), we measured soil temperature, forest floor and mineral soil C, litter decomposition, soil respiration, and forest floor mean residence time. Mean annual soil temperature and annual degree-days above 5 °C were inversely correlated with elevation. Total soil C (166–241 Mg·ha–1) showed no trend with elevation, while forest floor C accumulation (16.3–35.9 Mg·ha–1) decreased significantly with elevation. Carbon dynamics did not follow a consistent elevation pattern; however, the cooler upper elevations showed the lowest C turnover as indicated by the lowest needle decomposition rate (k = 0.0231·year–1) and the longest mean residence time of forest floor C (22 years). Mean annual CO2 efflux from the soil (1020–1830 kg C·ha–1·year–1) was negatively correlated with mean annual soil temperatures and annual degree-days above 5 °C. This gradient study offers useful insights into C release patterns under future warming scenarios, and suggests that the highest elevation may be most susceptible to global warming.
Tewksbury, C.E., and H. Van Miegroet. 2007. Soil organic carbon dynamics along a climatic gradient in a southern Appalachian spruce-fir forest. Canadian Journal of Forest Research 37(7): 1161-1172.