Catena, April 2016, Vol.139, pp.9-18
Riparian woodlands consist of different landscape units characterized by different hydroecomorphological site conditions that are reflected in the distribution of soils and tree species. These conditions are determined by flooding frequency and duration, distance to river channels, elevation and water flow velocity. The influence of these environmental drivers on the stabilization of soil organic matter (SOM) has as yet not been investigated. Hence, the aim of our study is to link soil formation and its drivers with stabilizing processes of SOM in riparian floodplain forests. We investigated soils and sediments at two sites in the ash–maple–elm–oak alluvial forest zone (AMEO sites) and two sites in the willow-poplar alluvial forest zone (WiP sites) within the riparian zone of the Danube near Vienna (Austria). Sediments and soils were characterized based on texture, contents of organic carbon (OC), nitrogen, Fe oxides, and soil pH. Density fractionation was used to separate OC fractions in terms of stabilization process and resulting organic matter (OM) turnover time: the free light fraction (fast turnover), the light fraction occluded in aggregates (intermediate turnover) and the heavy fraction of OM associated tightly to mineral surfaces (slow turnover). At both sites, soil and sediment properties reflect the hydroecomorphological site conditions for formation of the landscape units in the riparian zone: Soils at AMEO sites develop during constant deposition of fine-textured sediment while water flow velocity is low. Progressing soil development causes a continuous decrease in OC content with increasing soil depth, mainly from fractions with fast and intermediate turnover. As a consequence the heavy fraction clearly dominates with around 90% of OC. Temporally variable flooding conditions with occurring turbulences found at WiP sites result in a discontinuous change of soil properties with increasing soil depth. Former topsoil horizons buried by huge amounts of sediments seem to keep the OC fractionation typical for topsoil horizons with extraordinarily high amounts of light fraction OM (free and occluded) representing 20–40% of total OC. The presented results confirm that sedimentation and soil formation are simultaneous processes at AMEO sites. At WiP sites both processes seem uncoupled with alternate phases of sedimentation and soil formation. Thus, the frequent burial of topsoil material formed at WiP sites seems to enable the conservation of unstable organic matter fractions at this part of active floodplains.
Fluvisol Formation ; Soil Organic Matter ; Density Fractionation ; Riparian Floodplains ; Soil Aggregates ; Riparian Forests ; Sciences (General) ; Geography ; Geology
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