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    Author(s): M. Ramlow; C. C. Rhoades; M. F. Cotrufo
    Date: 2018
    Source: Forest Ecology and Management. 427: 230-241.
    Publication Series: Scientific Journal (JRNL)
    Station: Rocky Mountain Research Station
    PDF: View PDF  (1.0 MB)

    Description

    Forest roads are commonly decommissioned and revegetated to decrease erosion, prevent weed encroachment, manage recreation and improve overall watershed condition on federal lands, but may also provide a complementary opportunity to sequester carbon (C) in soils. Soils on decommissioned roads are typically compacted with limited capacity for water retention, decreased mineral nitrogen (N) availability and low organic matter content, impairing revegetation and soil C sequestration efforts. We evaluated the effects of an organic fertilizer, wood strand mulch and a woody biochar on soil physical, chemical and biological processes to improve revegetation and C sequestration on decompacted forest roads. We monitored plant and soil responses to the treatments and their combinations over three growing seasons on four decommissioned road segments in northern Colorado. The organic fertilizer increased plant available mineral N for the first year of the study and resulted in a 21% increase in total plant cover and 67% increase in root biomass. The wood strand mulch increased total plant cover and root biomass to a similar extent, but had no effect on soil water content or mineral N availability. Instead, mulch stimulated soil microbial respiration and increased soil C content, two of the best predictors of plant cover and biomass. The woody biochar increased soil water content by 26% and elevated mineral N availability throughout the study, but did not improve plant cover, above- or belowground biomass. Mulch, biochar and their combined treatments sequestered C, but through distinct pathways. Microbial processing of wood strand mulch added C to the mineral soil fraction, whereas biochar added C directly to the coarse particulate fraction with no effect on mineral soil C or soil respiration. Restoration practitioners can utilize these results to inform management decisions and guide further research on different rates and combinations of organic amendments to revegetate and sequester C on decommissioned forest roads.

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    Citation

    Ramlow, M.; Rhoades, C. C.; Cotrufo, M. F. 2018. Promoting revegetation and soil carbon sequestration on decommissioned forest roads in Colorado, USA: A comparative assessment of organic soil amendments. Forest Ecology and Management. 427: 230-241.

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    Keywords

    decommissioned forest roads, soil carbon sequestration, erosion, revegetation

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