Apport du multi-traçage isotopique (26Mg, 44Ca et 2H) à la connaissance des flux d'éléments minéraux dans les écosystèmes forestiers

Abstract : Many forest soils in France are acid and nutrient poor. French forests endure today increased external constraints which may be nutritional and/or silvicultural and/or climatic. These constraints may strongly impact the sustainability of nutrient-poor ecosystems. It is thus important to understand and quantify the processes which govern nutrient cycling in these ecosystems to better predict soil fertility changes and help forest managers make sound decisions to sustain these ecosystems.The main objective of this thesis was to study magnesium and calcium cycles in a productive forest ecosystem with low available magnesium and calcium pools in the soils. For this purpose, in a 35-year-old beech stand, we computed input-output nutrient budgets between 2003 and 2008 using conventional approaches to measure nutrient pools and fluxes. A multi-isotopic (2H, 15N, 26Mg et 44Ca) tracing experiment was then carried out in the same plot: tracers were sprayed on the forest floor in April 2010 as soluble salts, tracer transfer was then monitored in the whole ecosystem until March 2012 (litter-layer, exchangeable pools, soil solutions, above-ground biomass…).The results evidenced the predominant role of organic matter in the very conservative cycling of Mg and Ca in this nutrient-poor soil. Indeed, the applied 26Mg and 44Ca were very rapidly retained in the fine litter-layer by ion-exchange processes. In the soil profile, most of the CEC was probably due to soil organic matter which played an important role in the retention of Mg and Ca in the soil. Compared to magnesium, calcium was more strongly retained in the litter layer and transferred more slowly in the soil profile because of the higher affinity of calcium for organic CEC. Despite preferential water flow evidenced by the water tracing experiment (2H), no leaching of 26Mg or 44Ca was observed during the study period. Two years after the application of tracers, 8% of applied 26Mg and 33% of applied 44Ca was still retained in the litter layer while, respectively, 52% and 46% of applied tracers were found in the first 10cm of the soil profile. Tracers were rapidly absorbed by the fine roots but were transferred from the roots to the canopy at very different velocities: leaves were enriched in 15N one month after the application of tracers while only very small 26Mg enrichments and not 44Ca were observed in the canopy in 2012. Tracer budgets in 2012 showed that trees absorbed 27% of 26Mg and 20% of 44Caand that tracers were mainly concentrated at the base of the bole. The use of isotope tracers evidenced the slow distribution of magnesium and the slower distribution of calcium in the ecosystem, on the one hand from the litter pool to the soil profile and on the other hand from the roots to the canopy. This behavior was attributed to the affinity of the cations for organic matter functional groups such as carboxyl groups.Finally the isotopic dilution technique of the applied tracers measured in the different ecosystem compartments after two years of monitoring enabled us to validate the Mg losses computed by nutrient budgets. However, Ca depletion suggested by nutrient budgets were proven to be nil thus evidencing the contribution of an external (foliar absorption, weathering) and/or internal (mobilization of nutrients stored in ligneous tissues) sources which are currently not taken into account in conventional approaches.Overall the results of the in situ ecosystem scale multi-isotopic tracing experiment show the added value of the “isotopic tracing” approach to study nutrient pools and fluxes in forest ecosystems in addition to conventional approaches.
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Gregory van der Heijden. Apport du multi-traçage isotopique (26Mg, 44Ca et 2H) à la connaissance des flux d'éléments minéraux dans les écosystèmes forestiers. Sylviculture, foresterie. AgroParisTech, 2013. Français. ⟨NNT : 2013AGPT0013⟩. ⟨pastel-01058253⟩

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