Tree species effects on coupled cycles of carbon, nitrogen, and acidity in mineral soils at a common garden experiment

Kevin E. Mueller, David M. Eissenstat, Sarah E. Hobbie, Jacek Oleksyn, Andrzej M. Jagodzinski, Peter B. Reich, Oliver A. Chadwick, Jon Chorover

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

193 Scopus citations


Forest biogeochemical cycles are shaped by effects of dominant tree species on soils, but the underlying mechanisms are not well understood. We investigated effects of temperate tree species on interactions among carbon (C), nitrogen (N), and acidity in mineral soils from an experiment with replicated monocultures of 14 tree species. To identify how trees affected these soil properties, we evaluated correlations among species-level characteristics (e. g. nutrient concentrations in leaf litter, wood, and roots), stand-level properties (e. g. nutrient fluxes through leaf litterfall, nutrient pools in stemwood), and components of soil C, N, and cation cycles. Total extractable acidity (aciditytot) was correlated positively with mineral soil C stocks (R2 = 0. 72, P < 0. 001), such that a nearly two-fold increase in aciditytot was associated with a more than two-fold increase of organic C. We attribute this correlation to effects of tree species on soil acidification and subsequent mineral weathering reactions, which make hydrolyzing cations available for stabilization of soil organic matter. The effects of tree species on soil acidity were better understood by measuring multiple components of soil acidity, including pH, the abundance of hydrolyzing cations in soil solutions and on cation exchange sites, and aciditytot. Soil pH and aciditytot were correlated with proton-producing components of the soil N cycle (e. g. nitrification), which were positively correlated with species-level variability in fine root N concentrations. Soluble components of soil acidity, such as aluminum in saturated paste extracts, were more strongly related to plant traits associated with calcium cycling, including leaf and root calcium concentrations. Our results suggest conceptual models of plant impacts on soil biogeochemistry should be revised to account for underappreciated plant traits and biogeochemical processes.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)601-614
Number of pages14
Issue number1-3
StatePublished - Nov 2012


  • Cations
  • Plant traits
  • Soil organic matter
  • Stemwood
  • Stoichiometry
  • Weathering
  • Wood
  • pH

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Environmental Chemistry
  • Water Science and Technology
  • Earth-Surface Processes


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