EGU General Assembly 2023
© Author(s) 2023. This work is distributed under
the Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 License.

Post-drought root exudation defines soil organic matter stability in a temperate mature forest

Melanie Brunn1,2, Benjamin D. Hafner3, Tobias Bölscher4, Kyohsuke Hikino5, Hermann F. Jungkunst2, Jiří Kučerík6, Janina Neff2, Karin Pritsch7, Emma J. Sayer8, Fabian Weikl5, Marie J. Zwetsloot9, and Taryn L. Bauerle3
Melanie Brunn et al.
  • 1University of Koblenz, Institute for Integrated Natural Sciences, Koblenz, Germany (
  • 2University of Kaiserslautern-Landau (RPTU), Institute for Environmental Sciences, Landau, Germany
  • 3Cornell University, School of Integrative Plant Science, USA
  • 4French National Institute for Agriculture, Food, and Environment (INRAE), University Paris-Saclay, UMR EcoSys, Palaiseau, France
  • 5Technical University of Munich, Ecophysiology of Plants, Freising Weihenstephan, Germany
  • 6Brno University of Technology, Institute of Chemistry and Technology of Environmental Protection, Brno, Czech Republic
  • 7German Research Center for Environmental Health, Institute of Biochemical Plant Pathology, Neuherberg, Germany
  • 8Lancaster University, Lancaster Environment Centre, United Kingdom
  • 9Wageningen University, Soil Biology Group, Wageningen, Netherlands

Forest soils are crucial for many ecosystem services that rely on soil organic matter (SOM) stability. Carbon allocated to roots and released as exudates to the rhizosphere plays a key role in SOM stabilization. Under periodic drought, elevated root exudation and SOM accumulation have been reported. Yet, whether root exudates control SOM formation and stability in mature forests once the drought ends is largely unknown. We examined whether root exudates from P. abies and F. sylvatica trees relate to SOM formation and stability in soil depth profiles one year following five years of experimental drought (Kroof experiment, Germany). We collected root exudates throughout the rooting zone and combined the data with thermogravimetric analysis of SOM in the rhizosphere and non-rooted soil. We found that the rhizosphere of both species was characterized by stable SOM fractions that did not decrease post-drought, suggesting potential protection of SOM due to rhizodeposition and root exudates. In contrast, stable SOM fractions decreased relative to controls in non-rooted topsoil below P. abies, indicating a loss of stabilized SOM from drought-affected and re-wetted soil. Our measurements provide valuable insights into post-drought SOM formation and mechanisms of SOM stabilization in forest ecosystems under climate change.

How to cite: Brunn, M., Hafner, B. D., Bölscher, T., Hikino, K., Jungkunst, H. F., Kučerík, J., Neff, J., Pritsch, K., Sayer, E. J., Weikl, F., Zwetsloot, M. J., and Bauerle, T. L.: Post-drought root exudation defines soil organic matter stability in a temperate mature forest, EGU General Assembly 2023, Vienna, Austria, 24–28 Apr 2023, EGU23-11241,, 2023.