Leaching of Nitrogen and Phenolics from wood waste and co-composts used for road rehabilitation

Rehabilitation and reforestation of disused forest roads and landings can be facilitated by the incorporation of organic matter. The British Columbia forest industry creates residual woody materials, but they are nutrient poor and may leach phenolic compounds. We assessed the potential for wood wastes (chipped cedar wood waste, sort-yard waste, hogfuel) and co-composts with shellfish waste or municipal biosolids to provide inorganic N and release phenolics and condensed tannins, compared with natural forest floor and mineral soil. Initial concentrations of tannins and phenolics were low, and 13C cross-polarization and magic-angle spinning nuclear magnetic resonance spectroscopy showed that composts were still dominated by wood. During a 426-d laboratory leaching experiment, release of phenolics from woody amendments (other than cedar wood) was lower than from native forest floor. The pH levels of woody amendments and their leachates were also within the range of native forest floor and soil (except cedar wood, which was the most acidic material). Co-composts had higher total N and available P, greatly reduced tannins and phenolics, and negligible leaching of polyphenols. Uncomposted materials released very little N during the incubation. Hogfuel-biosolids compost released a large amount of nitrate, but only during the first 100 d. Shrimp-wood compost released moderate amounts of ammonium and nitrate throughout the incubation, had high available P and low tannin content, and released less polyphenols than did native forest floors. Our results indicate that appropriate use of these amendments does not pose an environmental risk with regard to the parameters measured in this study.

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