Invasive Species Compendium

Detailed coverage of invasive species threatening livelihoods and the environment worldwide

Abstract

Tracing carbon flow through a sugar maple forest and its soil components: role of invasive earthworms.

Abstract

Aims: We conducted a suite of tracer studies using the stable isotope 13C to follow and quantify the flow of carbon from leaf litter and roots into soil components including aggregates and biota with and without invasive earthworms. Methods: Ten-year-old saplings of sugar maple growing in the understory of a thinned northern hardwood forest were labeled with 13CO2. The 13C labeled leaf litter was applied to forest plots with and without invasive earthworms (Lumbricidae) and traced for three years. We also traced the label from the trees through the roots and into soil components in the labeling chambers. Labeled fine roots and stem wood were incubated in a forest and the label was quantified over six years of decomposition. Results: We were able to detect the litter tracer to 10 cm soil depth in plots without earthworms and to 20 cm with earthworms present, and earthworms promoted C incorporation into soil aggregates. The soil food web was much more enriched in the label from roots than from aboveground plant litter.. Rapid fine root decay was observed (k = 0.9 yr-1), and although labelled wood was almost completely decayed, little 13C was recovered in soil (0.33%). Conclusion: The approach was successful for quantifying transport and fate of tree carbon in forest soils and could be enhanced with careful quantification of gross assimilation.