Chinese privet, a woody shrub native to southeast Asia, is an invasive species threatening ecosystems in the southeast United States. When the shrub establishes itself and is uncontrolled, it forms dense impenetrable thickets in places that should be occupied by native trees and shrubs. Studies show that the leaves of this shrub decompose faster than native species’ leaves. This implies that there’s potential for Chinese privet to impact the carbon cycle by affecting the soil carbon pool. The goal of this study was to determine whether the amount of organic carbon (OC) in soil under heavy Chinese privet invasion differed from that of nearby uninvaded soil. Due to Chinese privet’s faster decomposition rate, it was hypothesized that invaded soil would have significantly less OC. Soil samples (165 samples) were collected in Milledgeville, GA between November 2022 and November 2023. Soil samples separated into different depths (top 5 cm, middle 5 cm and bottom 5 cm) were collected from a forest site with heavy privet invasion and from two nearby uninvaded sites (a mixed forest stand and a pine forest stand). Percent organic matter (OM) was analyzed using the loss-on-ignition method (samples ashed at 360oC) and OC calculated as 58% of OM. One-way ANOVA was used to assess whether mean %OC differed significantly between soil depth and between sites. Results showed that there was significantly higher %OC in the uninvaded mixed forest site than the pine and privet-invaded sites. Also, %OC decreased significantly with soil depth for all sites. These findings show that under heavy and perhaps prolonged Chinese privet invasion, less carbon is stored in the soil. The implication is that if more carbon ends up in the atmosphere rather than being stored in the soil, uncontrolled invasion could be contributing to the problem of global warming.

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