Application of wood ash leads to strong vertical gradients in soil pH changing prokaryotic community structure in forest top soil

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Wood ash is alkaline and contains base-cations. Application of wood ash to forests therefore counteracts soil acidification and recycle nutrients removed during harvest. Wood ash application to soil leads to strong vertical gradients in physicochemical parameters. Consequently, we designed an experimental system where small-scale vertical changes in soil properties and prokaryotic community structure could be followed after wood ash application. A mixed fly and bottom ash was applied in dosages of 3 and 9 t ha−1 to the surface of soil mesocosms, simulating a typical coniferous podzol. Soil pH, exchangeable cations and 16S prokaryotic community was subsequently assessed at small depth intervals to 5 cm depth at regular intervals for one year. Wood ash significantly changed the prokaryotic community in the top of the soil column. Also, the largest increases in pH and concentrations of exchangeable cations was found here. The relative abundance of prokaryotic groups directionally changed, suggesting that wood ash favors copiotrophic prokaryotes at the expense of oligotrophic and acidophilic taxa. The effect of wood ash were negligible both in terms of pH- and biological changes in lower soil layers. Consequently, by micro-vertical profiling we showed that wood ash causes a steep gradient of abiotic factors driving biotic changes but only in the top-most soil layers.

Original languageEnglish
Article number742
JournalScientific Reports
Number of pages10
Publication statusPublished - 2021

ID: 256065380