School of Physical and Chemical Sciences, Te Kura Matū Seminar Series

Tree species effects on soil chemistry, nutrient cycling and soil carbon sequestration


Torsten W. Berger


Erskine Visitor with the School of Physical and Chemical Sciences (Host: Brett Robinson) BOKU-University, Vienna, Austria, Department of Forest- and Soil Sciences, Institute of Forest Ecology

Time & Place

Wed, 18 Mar 2020 12:00:04 NZDT in Room 112, Beatrice Tinsley Building

All are welcome


Since it became popular to plant Norway spruce (Picea abies) outside its climatic range to reforest devastated forest land in Central Europe in the 19th century, spruce and beech (Fagus sylvatica) stands have been contrasted in their effects on the forest soil. As stated in this rather old literature, the chemically and mechanically well protected, long-living foliage of spruce decomposes slowly, resulting in the buildup of forest floor humus and consequently sequestration of nutrients in organic matter, acidification of the top soil and reduced activity of soil macro fauna. Beech, the “mother of the forests”, as it is often called in popular German forest writing, is said to counteract soil degradation by faster decomposition of its litter, by recycling of nutrients from deeper soil horizons through its deeper root system, and by creating root channels, which allow deeper rooting of spruce thereby increasing the stability of the stand against wind throw. In this seminar, we hold up the old idea of beech as site improver of spruce stands to the harsh light of rigorous scientific testing. Our research has focused on soil carbon and nitrogen stocks, nutrient cycling and soil respiration (carbon sequestration). Results have shown so far, this old idea may be true on occasion, it is often not, and the opposite is true on other occasions. Finally, we focus on purported “safe” generalizations about beech litter and its decomposition in single and mixed litter combination.

All Welcome


Torsten W. Berger is a professor at the Institute of Forest Ecology (BOKU-University). He studied at BOKU “Forestry”, earned his PhD from BOKU in 1991, spent 2 years as a postdoctoral associate at the Institute of Ecosystem Studies, Millbrook, New York, USA (Prof. Dr. Gene E. Likens), and got his habilitation (docent) in the field “Biogeochemistry and Forest Nutrition” at BOKU in 2000. His research interests and activities are: deposition of atmospheric constituents and its impact on nutrient budgets of forest ecosystems, biogeochemistry, forest nutrition, chemical manipulations of forest ecosystems for evaluating human environmental impacts (e.g., calcium, nitrogen, acids, TFA), plant-soil feedback, forest disturbances, dendrochemistry.