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Biogeosciences An interactive open-access journal of the European Geosciences Union
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https://doi.org/10.5194/bg-2019-113
© Author(s) 2019. This work is distributed under
the Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 License.
https://doi.org/10.5194/bg-2019-113
© Author(s) 2019. This work is distributed under
the Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 License.

Submitted as: research article 09 May 2019

Submitted as: research article | 09 May 2019

Review status
This discussion paper is a preprint. A revision of the manuscript is under review for the journal Biogeosciences (BG).

Bioturbation by wild boar increases the stability of forest soil carbon

Axel Don1, Christina Hagen1, Erik Grüneberg2, and Cora Vos1 Axel Don et al.
  • 1Thünen Institute of Climate-Smart Agriculture, Braunschweig, 38116, Germany
  • 2Thünen Institute of Forest Ecology, Eberswalde, 16225, Germany

Abstract. Most forest soils are characterised by a steep carbon gradient from the forest floor to the mineral soil, indicating that carbon is prevented from entry into the soil. Bioturbation can help incorporate litter-derived carbon into the mineral soil. Wild boar are effective at mixing and grubbing in the soil and wild boar populations are increasing in many parts of the world. In a six-year field study, we investigated the effect of wild boar bioturbation on the stocks and stability of soil organic carbon in two forest areas. Regular bioturbation mimicking grubbing by wild boar was performed artificially in 23 plots and the organic layer and mineral soil down to 15 cm depth were then sampled. No significant changes in soil organic carbon stocks were detected in the bioturbation plots compared with non-disturbed reference plots. However, around 50 % of forest floor carbon was transferred with bioturbation to mineral soil carbon and the stock of stabilised mineral-associated carbon increased by 28 %. Thus, a large proportion of the labile carbon in the forest floor was transformed into more stable carbon. Carbon saturation of mineral surfaces was not detected, but carbon loading per unit mineral surface increased by on average 66 % in the forest floor due to bioturbation. This indicates that mineral forest soils have non-used capacity to stabilise and store carbon. Transfer of aboveground litter into the mineral soil is the only rate-limiting process. Wild boar can help to speed up this process with their grubbing activity.

Axel Don et al.
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Axel Don et al.
Axel Don et al.
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Short summary
Forest soils have a steep carbon gradient from the forest floor to the mineral soil, indicating that carbon is prevented from entry into the soil. Wild boar are effective in mixing the soil when searching for food. In a six-year field study, we found no significant changes in soil organic carbon stocks in the wild boar treatment plots. However, around 50 % of forest floor carbon was transferred with mixing into mineral soil carbon and increased the stabilised fraction of soil organic carbon.
Forest soils have a steep carbon gradient from the forest floor to the mineral soil, indicating...
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