Soil Denitrification Fluxes in a Northern Hardwood Forest: The Importance of Snowmelt and Implications for Ecosystem N Budgets

TitleSoil Denitrification Fluxes in a Northern Hardwood Forest: The Importance of Snowmelt and Implications for Ecosystem N Budgets
Publication TypeJournal Article
Year of Publication2015
AuthorsMorse, JL, Durán, J, Groffman, PM
JournalEcosystems
Volume18
Issue3
Pagination520 - 532
Date Published2015/01/30/
ISBN Number1432-9840, 1435-0629
Keywordsdinitrogen, Ecology, elevation gradient, Environmental Management, Forest soil, Geoecology/Natural Processes, Hydrology/Water Resources, nitrogen saturation, nitrous oxide, Plant Sciences, soil respiration, Zoology
Abstract

Nitrogen (N) is the nutrient that most frequently limits the productivity of forest ecosystems. Understanding N cycling and forest response to altered N inputs and climate change is an ongoing research challenge. In several intensively studied forests in northeastern North America, well-characterized N inputs are not balanced by measured N losses, suggesting that an unmeasured N loss pathway such as denitrification may be important. We studied soil denitrification gas fluxes in northern hardwood forests at the Hubbard Brook long-term ecological research site in New Hampshire, USA, and found that denitrification in apparently oxic soils could account for N losses greater than half of annual atmospheric N inputs. Denitrification rates were strongly affected by elevation and season, with higher rates occurring at high elevation plots and during snowmelt. These results suggest that denitrification accounts for a major portion of the increasing amounts of “missing N” reported for this site, and that a significant amount of the anthropogenic N that enters terrestrial ecosystems in northeastern North America is returned to the atmosphere as N2. These dynamics are highly vulnerable to change, however, as soil moisture levels and conditions during snowmelt are changing rapidly along with climate.

URLhttp://link.springer.com/article/10.1007/s10021-015-9844-2
Short TitleEcosystems