Soil Co2 Efflux and Soil Carbon Content as Influenced by Thinning in Loblolly Pine Plantations on the Piedmont of Virginia
Selig, Marcus Franklin
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The thinning of loblolly pine plantations has a great potential to influence the fluxes and storage of carbon within managed stands. This study looked at the effects of thinning on aboveground carbon and mineral soil carbon storage, 14-years after the thinning of an 8-year-old loblolly pine plantation on the piedmont of Virginia. The study also examined soil respiration for one year following the second thinning of the same stand at age twenty-two. The study was conducted using three replicate .222 hectare stands planted using 3.05 by 3.05 meter spacing in 1980 at the Reynolds Homestead in Critz, VA. Using two different sample collection methods it was determined that soil carbon was evenly dispersed throughout thinned plots, and that random sampling techniques were adequate for capturing spatial variability. Soil carbon showed a significant negative correlation with soil depth (p=0.0001), and by testing the difference between intercepts in this relationship, it was determined that thinning significantly increased soil carbon by 31.9% across all depths (p=0.0004). However, after accounting for losses in aboveground wood production, thinning resulted in an overall 10% loss in stand carbon storage. However, this analysis did not take into account the fate of wood products following removal. Soil respiration, soil temperature, and soil moisture were measured every month for one year near randomly selected stumps and trees. In order to account for spatial variation, split plots were measured at positions adjacent to stumps and 1.5 meters away from stumps. Soil temperature and moisture were both significantly affected by thinning. Regression analysis was performed to determine significant drivers in soil CO2 efflux. Temperature proved to be the most significant driver of soil respiration, with a positive correlation in thinned and unthinned stands. When modeled using regression, thinning was a significant variable for predicting soil respiration (p < 0.0009), but explained only 3.4% of the variation. The effects of thinning were responsible for decreased respiration, however, when coupled with increased temperatures, soil respiration was elevated in thinned stands.
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