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UBC Theses and Dissertations

A chromatographic approach to the diagnosis of humus quality and some implications for forest management Laird, Robert Morris


Understanding forest humus is seen as an important aspect of sound forest management. A method using paper chromatography, developed by Pfeiffer is examined as a diagnostic approach to the nature and dynamics of forest humus. Chromatograms are prepared from a sodium hydroxide extract of humus. On a circular filter paper the radiating extract reacts with silver nitrate producing a characteristic picture or "humus spectrum". Preliminary work relating chromatograms to types of humus and site conditions is presented and discussed. Further comparisons are made between chromatographic features and a range of chemical and site variables of 103 humus form samples. Significant correlations, scattergrams and discriminant function analyses are presented and discussed. It is concluded that the chromatogram allows a network of inferences to be made about the nature of forest humus. Although not quantitatively predictive, the chromatogram reflects in a consistent manner, properties of humus derived from chemical analyses. It supports the classification of humus forms and may provide a method of discrimination when morphological properties are inconclusive as found in clearcuts or other disturbed sites. Applications for forest management are discussed and a number of examples presented. The potential for monitoring changes as a result of management practises is seen as particularly interesting. The method may provide the field manager with a practical interpretive tool, and the student of humus dynamics with an interesting bridge between the results of analytical chemistry and field observation of the in-situ humus. The limitations of the approach are discussed and further studies suggested.

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