Cycling and retention of nitrogen in European beech (Fagus sylvatica L.) ecosystems under elevated fructification frequency.

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From: Biogeosciences(Vol. 18, Issue 12)
Publisher: Copernicus GmbH
Document Type: Article
Length: 499 words

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Abstract :

Atmospheric deposition of nitrogen (N) has exceeded its demand for plant increment in forest ecosystems in Germany. High N inputs increased plant growth, the internal N cycling within the ecosystem, the retention of N in soil and plant compartments, and the N output by seepage water. But the processes involved are not fully understood, notably the effect of fructification in European beech (Fagus sylvatica L.) on N fluxes. The frequency of fructification has increased together with air temperature and N deposition, but its impact on N fluxes and the sequestration of carbon (C) and N in soils have been hardly studied. A field experiment using .sup.15 N-labeled leaf litter exchange was carried out over a 5.5-year period at seven long-term European beech (Fagus sylvatica L.) monitoring sites to study the impact of current mast frequency on N cycling. Mean annual leaf litterfall contained 35 kg N ha.sup.-1, but about one-half of that was recovered in the soil 5.5 years after the establishment of the leaf litter .sup.15 N exchange experiment. In these forests, fructification occurred commonly at intervals of 5 to 10 years, which has now changed to every 2 years as observed during this study period. Seed cupules contributed 51 % to the additional litterfall in mast years, which creates a high nutrient demand during their decomposition due to the very high ratios of C to N and C to phosphorus (P). Retention of leaf litter .sup.15 N in the soil was more closely related to the production of total litterfall than to the leaf litterfall, indicating the role of seed cupules in the amount of leaf N retained in the soil. Higher mast frequency increased the mass of mean annual litterfall by about 0.5 Mg ha.sup.-1 and of litterfall N by 8.7 kg ha.sup.-1 . Mean net primary production (NPP) increased by about 4 %. Mean total N retention in soils calculated by input and output fluxes was unrelated to total litterfall, indicating that mast events were not the primary factor controlling total N retention in soils. Despite reduced N deposition since the 1990s, about 5.7 out of 20.7 kg N ha.sup.-1 deposited annually between 1994 and 2008 was retained in soils, notably at acid sites with high N/P and C/P ratios in the organic layers and mineral soils, indicating P limitation for litter decomposition. Trees retained twice as much N compared to soils by biomass increment, particularly in less acidic stands where the mineral soils had low C/N ratios. These results have major implications for our understanding of the C and N cycling and N retention in forest ecosystems. In particular the role of mast products in N retention needs more research in the future.

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Gale Document Number: GALE|A666195507