Short research report: high level of soil carbon addition causes possible manganese and aluminium phytotoxicity.
A restoration trial of grassy woodland on former agricultural land applied carbon at a standard rate (840 g C/m2/year) and at a high rate (4,200 g C/m2/year), to test whether further benefits to native plants and suppression of exotics would emerge. Carbon addition at the high rate reduced plant cover further than the standard rate but led to severe loss of plant species; it also reduced soil pH. Soil Al, Fe and Mn levels increased across the gradient of C addition, which would be consistent with the reduction in soil pH for Al and Mn, and a decrease in soil redox potential for Mn and Fe. Nutrient analysis of leaf tissue confirmed that uptake of Fe and Mn increased over the range of C addition, with the concentration of Mn in the high carbon treatment exceeding the threshold for toxicity for a range of species. The soil and plant tissue data are consistent with the induction of increased soil acidity and of stronger reducing conditions in the soil by high level of carbon addition and localised soil flooding. Plant uptake of Mn to toxic levels occurred subsequently, leading to negative effects on plants; aluminium phytotoxicity may also have occurred.