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Soil organic matter cycling in novel and natural boreal forest ecosystems Open Access


Other title
novel ecosystem
boreal forest
soil organic matter
soil science
Type of item
Degree grantor
University of Alberta
Author or creator
Norris, Charlotte E.
Supervisor and department
Quideau, Sylvie A. (Renewable Resources)
Landhäusser, Simon M. (Renewable Resources)
Examining committee member and department
Wasylishen, Roderick E. (Chemistry)
Dyck, Miles (Renewable Resources)
Masiello, Carrie (Earth Science and Chemistry, Rice University)
Department of Renewable Resources
Soil Science
Date accepted
Graduation date
Doctor of Philosophy
Degree level
The western boreal forest of Canada, where the upland regions are dominated by stands of aspen (Populus tremuloides Michx.) and spruce (Picea glauca (Moench) Voss), is now home to novel ecosystems, i.e.; ecosystems composed of reclaimed stands formed from trees planted on constructed anthropogenic soils. This study set out to determine if soils from these natural and novel ecosystems differed in terms of their biogeochemical functioning. Using a multi-faceted approach this study examined several ecosystem function variables linked to soil organic matter composition, microbial communities and nitrogen fluxes. A survey of 42 sites showed that soil n-alkanes, biomarkers of vegetation inputs, were more concentrated and had distinct signatures in natural compared to novel ecosystems. Mineral soils from reclaimed stands, natural aspen and spruce stands showed a distinct microbial community structure as was demonstrated using phospholipid fatty acids (PLFAs) as microbial biomarkers following addition of 13C-glucose in a laboratory incubation. Further probing by compound specific analysis (CSA) of the 13C-enriched PLFAs determined that microbial incorporation of 13C-glucose was different among soils. Solid-state nuclear magnetic resonance characterization of double-labeled (13C, 15N) aspen leaves and roots generated for tracer studies confirmed that isotopic enrichment across biopolymers and tissues was time dependent. In a subsequent field incubation, where the labeled aspen leaf litter was added to the forest floors of aspen and spruce stands, soil microorganisms maintained an active nitrogen cycle between fresh litter and live vegetation at both stands, yet remained structurally distinct. However, CSA indicated overlap in the 13C enrichment of some PLFA biomarkers between stands. Finally, the addition of 15N labelled aspen leaf litter to reclaimed and natural forest stands demonstrated the importance of vegetation inputs not only as a source of nitrogen for growing vegetation but also as a way to improve soil moisture and soil microbial biomass on all sites. Cumulatively, these results not only enhance our understanding of organic matter cycling in natural and novel boreal forest ecosystems but, more importantly, they also provide results on conceptual ideas to guide future research.
Permission is hereby granted to the University of Alberta Libraries to reproduce single copies of this thesis and to lend or sell such copies for private, scholarly or scientific research purposes only. Where the thesis is converted to, or otherwise made available in digital form, the University of Alberta will advise potential users of the thesis of these terms. The author reserves all other publication and other rights in association with the copyright in the thesis and, except as herein before provided, neither the thesis nor any substantial portion thereof may be printed or otherwise reproduced in any material form whatsoever without the author's prior written permission.
Citation for previous publication
Charlotte E. Norris, Jennifer A. J. Dungait, Adrian Joynes and Sylvie A. Quideau. (2013) Biomarkers of novel ecosystem development in boreal forest soils. Organic Geochemistry. In Press.Charlotte E. Norris, Sylvie A. Quideau and Donna E. Macey. (2013) Processing of 13C glucose in mineral soil from aspen, spruce and novel ecosystems in the Athabasca Oil Sands Region. Applied Soil Ecology. 71: 24-32.Charlotte E. Norris, Sylvie A, Quideau, Simon M. Landhäusser, Guy M. Bernard and Roderick E. Wasylishen. (2012) Tracking stable isotope enrichment in tree seedlings with solid-state NMR spectroscopy. Scientific Reports. 2:719. DOI:10.1038/srep00719.

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