Inorganic Nitrogen Immobilization in Live and Sterile Soil of Old-Growth Conifer and Hardwood Forests: Implications for Ecosystem Nitrogen Retention
ecosystem, nitrite, nitrogen immobilization, old-growth forest, retention, soil organic matter
Digital Object Identifier (DOI)
Rapid immobilization of inorganic nitrogen (N) in soil contributes to ecosystem N accumulation, even in old-growth and chronically-fertilized forests once thought to have poor N retention capacity. In old-growth conifer and hardwood stands in Pennsylvania, we tested the hypotheses that biotic and abiotic N immobilization are regulated by N form and forest type. We added 15NH4 +, 15NO2 −, and 15NO3 − to sterile (γ-irradiated) and live organic-horizon soil and define N immobilization as the mass of added 15N remaining in soil following extractions conducted 15 min, 24 h, and 21 days later. Immobilization of NO2 − (19–25% of added N) occurred in sterile soils within 15 min and was little changed thereafter. Tracer NO3 − immobilization was not observed, although soils had been pretreated (refrigerated) so as to quantify the lower limit of immobilization potential. Immobilization of NH4 + (27%) occurred in live conifer soils by 21 days but not in other treatments. In 21-day incubations, tracer N immobilization was greater in NO3 −-poor and humic-rich soils. Immobilization was greater in sterile than in live soil, perhaps owing to artifacts of sterilization. Conifer stands exhibited more massive O-horizons, so NO2 − immobilization per unit area was greater in conifer (1.46 mg N m−2) than hardwood (0.43 mg N m−2) stands, possibly accounting for lower N leaching from conifer forests. Areal immobilization rates appear to be fast enough to retain all N transformed to NO2 −, so NO2 − production may be a limiting step in soil N retention in old-growth ecosystems.
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Citation / Publisher Attribution
Biogeochemistry, v. 111, issues 1-3, p. 169-186
Scholar Commons Citation
Lewis, David B. and Kaye, Jason P., "Inorganic Nitrogen Immobilization in Live and Sterile Soil of Old-Growth Conifer and Hardwood Forests: Implications for Ecosystem Nitrogen Retention" (2012). Integrative Biology Faculty and Staff Publications. 335.