Thinning is a silvicultural tool that is used to facilitate the growth of timber plantations worldwide. Plantations are important CO2 sinks, but the mechanism by which thinning affects the quantity and stability of soil organic carbon (SOC) is poorly understood. In this study, we examined the effects of different thinning intensities (low-intensity thinning treatment with 30% of the trees removed; high-intensity thinning treatment with 70% of the trees removed; control treatment without tree removal) on the quantity and stability of SOC in Chinese fir (Cunninghamia lanceolata [Lamb.] Hook) plantations in southeastern China. The amounts of SOC, microbial biomass carbon (MBC), easily oxidizable carbon (EOC), cold-water- soluble organic carbon (CWSOC) and hot-water- extractable organic carbon (HWEOC) and the carbon-cycle-related enzyme activities (β-glucosidase, invertase and cellulose) were quantified. We found that thinning significantly decreased the amount of SOC compared with the control treatment, but the effect differed by sampling date. The MBC and EOC were significantly higher in the high-intensity thinning treatment than in the control and low-intensity thinning treatments, whereas the invertase and β-glucosidase activities were significantly higher in the control treatment. However, the amounts of CWSOC, HWEOC and cellulose activity did not differ among the treatments, which indicates that the MBC, EOC and the activities of invertase and β-glucosidase were better indicators of changes in SOC to thinning. In addition, the MBC, EOC, CWSOC and the β-glucosidase and cellulase activities peaked in the warmer months. Our results indicate that thinning treatments in Chinese fir plantations decreased the SOC quantity and enzyme activities and that high-intensity thinning may lead to an increase of labile SOC.
- Easily oxidizable carbon
- Microbial biomass carbon