Biogeosciences Discuss., 10, 7521-7548, 2013
© Author(s) 2013. This work is distributed
under the Creative Commons Attribution 3.0 License.
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This discussion paper has been under review for the journal Biogeosciences (BG). Please refer to the corresponding final paper in BG.
Comparing soil biogeochemical processes in novel and natural boreal forest ecosystems
S. A. Quideau1, M. J. B. Swallow1, C. E. Prescott2, S. J. Grayston2, and S.-W. Oh3
1Department of Renewable Resources, University of Alberta, 442 Earth Sciences Building, Edmonton, AB T6G 2E3, Canada
2Department of Forest and Conservation Sciences, Faculty of Forestry, University of British Columbia, Vancouver, BC V6T 1Z4, Canada
3Department of Chemistry, Mokpo National University, Muan, Chonnam 534-729, Republic of Korea

Abstract. Emulating the variability that exists in the natural landscape prior to disturbance should be a goal of soil reconstruction and land reclamation efforts following resource extraction. Long-term ecosystem sustainability within reclaimed landscapes can only be achieved with the re-establishment of biogeochemical processes between reconstructed soils and plants. In this study, we assessed key soil biogeochemical attributes (nutrient availability, organic matter composition, and microbial communities) in reconstructed, novel, anthropogenic ecosystems covering different reclamation treatments following open-cast mining for oil extraction. We compared the attributes to those present in a range of natural soils representative of mature boreal forest ecosystems in the same area of northern Alberta. Soil nutrient availability was determined in situ with resin probes, organic matter composition was described with 13C nuclear magnetic resonance spectroscopy and soil microbial community structure was characterized using phospholipid fatty acid analysis. Significant differences among natural ecosystems were apparent in nutrient availability and seemed more related to the dominant tree cover than to soil type. When analyzed together, all natural forests differed significantly from the novel ecosystems, in particular with respect to soil organic matter composition. However, there was some overlap between the reconstructed soils and some of the natural ecosystems in nutrient availability and microbial communities, but not in organic matter characteristics. Hence, our results illustrate the importance of considering the range of natural landscape variability, and including several soil biogeochemical attributes when comparing novel, anthropogenic ecosystems to the mature ecosystems that constitute ecological targets.

Citation: Quideau, S. A., Swallow, M. J. B., Prescott, C. E., Grayston, S. J., and Oh, S.-W.: Comparing soil biogeochemical processes in novel and natural boreal forest ecosystems, Biogeosciences Discuss., 10, 7521-7548, doi:10.5194/bgd-10-7521-2013, 2013.
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