Drivers of postfire soil organic carbon accumulation in the
Benjamin Andrieux, Julien Beguin, Yves Bergeron, Pierre Grondin, David Paré.
The accumulation of soil carbon (C) is regulated by a complex interplay between abiotic and biotic factors. Our study aimed to identify the main drivers of soil C accumulation in the boreal forest of eastern North America. Ecosystem C pools were measured in 72 sites of fire origin that burned 2–314 years ago over a vast region with a range of ? mean annual temperature of 3°C and one of ? 500 mm total precipitation. We used a set of multivariate a priori causal hypotheses to test the influence of time since fire (TSF), climate, soil physico?chemistry and bryophyte dominance on forest soil organic C accumulation. Integrating the direct and indirect effects among abiotic and biotic variables explained as much as 50% of the full model variability. The main direct drivers of soil C stocks were: TSF >bryophyte dominance of the FH layer and metal oxide content >pH of the mineral soil. Only climate parameters related to water availability contributed significantly to explaining soil C stock variation. Importantly, climate was found to affect FH layer and mineral soil C stocks indirectly through its effects on bryophyte dominance and organo?metal complexation, respectively. Soil texture had no influence on soil C stocks. Soil C stocks increased both in the FH layer and mineral soil with TSF and this effect was linked to a decrease in pH with TSF in mineral soil. TSF thus appears to be an important factor of soil development and of C sequestration in mineral soil through its influence on soil chemistry. Overall, this work highlights that integrating the complex interplay between the main drivers of soil C stocks into mechanistic models of C dynamics could improve our ability to assess C stocks and better anticipate the response of the boreal forest to global change.