In northern forests, large amounts of missing N that dominate N balances at scales ranging from small watersheds to large regional drainage basins may be related to N-gas production by soil microbes. We measured denitrification rates in forest soils in northeastern North America along a N deposition gradient to determine whether N-gas fluxes were a significant fate for atmospheric N inputs and whether denitrification rates were correlated with N availability, soil O2 status, or forest type. We quantified N2 and N2O fluxes in the laboratory with an intact-core method and monitored soil O2, temperature and moisture in three forests differing in natural and anthropogenic N enrichment: Turkey Lakes Watershed, Ontario; Hubbard Brook Experimental Forest, New Hampshire; and Bear Brook Watershed, Maine (fertilized and reference plots in hardwood and softwood stands). Total N-gas flux estimates ranged from <1 in fertilized hardwood uplands at Bear Brook to>100 kg N ha(-1) year(-1) in hardwood wetlands at Turkey Lakes. N-gas flux increased systematically with natural N enrichment from soils with high nitrification rates (Bear Brook < Hubbard Brook < Turkey Lakes) but did not increase in the site where N fertilizer has been added since 1989 (Bear Brook). Our results show that denitrification is an important and underestimated term (1-24 % of atmospheric N inputs) in N budgets of upland forests in northeastern North America, but it does not appear to be an important sink for elevated anthropogenic atmospheric N deposition in this region.
- Forests & forestry,
- Atmospheric nitrogen,
- Forest soils,
- Soil microbiology
Available at: http://works.bepress.com/ivan_fernandez/15/