Litter input, soil quality and soil carbon dioxide production rates in varying riparian land uses along a first order stream in Southern Ontario, Canada.
Raimbault, Beverly Anne
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Forested riparian zones, which function as a buffer between agricultural fields and streams, filter out contaminants and sediment from the fields thereby improving water quality, cool the water with shade from trees, stabilize the stream bank and provide habitat for wildlife. However, in many agricultural areas, riparian vegetation has been removed for crop production or pasture purposes. Riparian restoration or rehabilitation is a way of restoring riparian ecosystem functions. This study examines the effect of riparian rehabilitation via tree planting along a first-order creek in Southern Ontario, 25 years after rehabilitation. Litter input, soil quality parameters and soil CO2 production rates were determined for the rehabilitated riparian zone, a grass-forb riparian zone and a natural forest riparian zone. Total litter input was 480, 580 and 295 g m-2 y-1 for the rehabilitated riparian zone, grass riparian zone and forest riparian zone, respectively. Soil bulk density was higher and hydraulic conductivity was lower for the rehabilitated riparian zone compared to the grass riparian zone and forest riparian zone. The concentration and soil stock of organic carbon and total nitrogen was lowest for the rehabilitated riparian zone compared to the grass riparian zone and forest riparian zone which were similar. The effect of riparian zone on soil CO2 production rates varied over the season. From spring to mid-summer, rates were 167, 224 and 104 mg C m-2 h-1 for the rehabilitated riparian zone, grass riparian zone and forest riparian zone, respectively. Soil CO2 production rates did not differ significantly (p < 0.05) between riparian zones for late summer and fall sampling dates. Soil CO2 production rates were significantly negatively correlated with soil C/N and positively correlated with soil pH and litter input. Soil CO2 production rates were positively correlated with soil temperature (r = 0.32) and negatively correlated with soil moisture (r = -0.48). Of the three riparian zones, the natural forest riparian zone exhibited the least amount of seasonal fluctuation for soil CO2 production rates, soil moisture and temperature. Results from this research indicated that more time is needed before soil quality and soil CO2 production rates of the rehabilitated riparian zone reach values similar to the natural forest riparian zone.