Organic matter chemistry and dynamics in clear-cut and unmanaged hardwood forest ecosystems

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89 Scopus citations


Forest harvesting alters the organic matter cycle by changing litter inputs and the decomposition regime. We hypothesized that these changes would result in differences in organic matter chemistry between clear-cut and uncut watershed ecosystems. We studied the chemistry of soil organic matter (SOM), and dissolved organic carbon (DOC) in soil solutions and stream samples in clear-cut and uncut sites at the Hubbard Brook Experimental Forest in New Hampshire using DOC fractionation techniques and solid-state 13C nuclear magnetic resonance (NMR) spectroscopy. Alkyl-C (aliphatic compounds) and O-alkyl-C (carbohydrates) were the largest C fractions in soil and dissolved organic matter at Hubbard Brook. Alkyl-C ranged from 29-48% of soil C, 25-42% of soil solution C, and 22-42% of streamwater DOC. Carbohydrates comprised 32-49%, 36-43%, and 29-60% of C in soils, solutions, and streamwater, respectively. In both soils and soil solutions, the carbohydrate fraction decreased with increasing soil depth, while the aromaticity of organic matter increased with depth. There were no significant differences in the structural chemistry of SOM between clear-cut and uncut watersheds. The aromatic-C fractions in soil solutions at the clear-cut site ranged from 12-16%, approximately 40% greater than at the uncut site (8.5-11%). Thus, clear-cutting has resulted in the leaching of more highly decomposed organic matter, and depletion of more aliphatic compounds in the soluble organic pool. Because DOC fluxes are small compared to the SOM pool, large differences in soil solution chemistry do not substantially alter the overall composition of SOM. While the organic chemistry of stream DOC varied greatly among 3 sampling dates, there were no obvious clear-cutting effects. Thus, temporal variations in flowpaths and/or in-stream processes appear to be more important than disturbance in regulating the organic carbon chemistry of these streams.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)51-83
Number of pages33
Issue number1
StatePublished - 2001


  • Dissolved organic carbon
  • Humic substances
  • Nuclear magnetic resonance
  • Soil organic matter
  • Soil solution
  • Spodosol

ASJC Scopus subject areas

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


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