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Hydraulic properties of forest soils with stagnic conditions

Tree species, e.g., shallow vs. deep rooting tree species, have a distinct impact on hydrological properties and pore size distribution of soils. In our study, we determined the soil hydrologic properties and pore size distribution at three forest stands and one pasture as reference on soils with stagnant water conditions. All sites are located in the Wermsdorf Forest, where historical studies have demonstrated severe silvicultural problems associated with stagnant water in the soil. The studied stands represent different stages of forest management with a young 25-year-old oak (Sessile Oak (Quercus petraea) and Red oak (Q. robur)) plantation, a 170-year-old oak stand and a 95-year-old Norway Spruce (Picea abies) stand in second rotation. We determined the infiltration rates under saturated and near-saturated conditions with a hood-infiltrometer at the topsoil as well as the saturated hydraulic conductivity and water retention characteristic from undisturbed soil samples taken from the surface and 30 cm depth. We used the bi-modal Kosugi function to calculate the water retention characteristic and applied the normalized Young-Laplace equation to determine the pore size distribution of the soil samples. Our results show that the soils of the old stands have higher amounts of transmission pores, which lead to higher infiltration rates and conductance of water into the subsoil. Moreover, the air capacity under the old oak was highest at the surface and at 30 cm depth. There was also an observable difference between the spruce and oak regarding their contrasting root system architecture. Under the oak, higher hydraulic conductivities and air capacities were observed, which may indicate a higher and wider connected macropore system. Our results confirm other findings that higher infiltration rates due to higher abundance of macropores can be found in older forest stands. Our results also demonstrate that an adapted forest management is important, especially at sites affected by stagnant water conditions. However, more measurements are needed to expand the existing data base of soil hydraulic properties of forest soils in temperate climates.



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