Soluble organic and inorganic nutrient fluxes in clearcut and mature deciduous forests
The mechanisms by which forest ecosystems retain or lose soluble inorganic nutrients after disturbance are well known, but substantial amounts of soluble organic nutrients may also be released from cut vegetation. Our objective was to compare the leaching of dissolved organic and inorganic nutrients in cut and mature forest stands and to develop hypotheses about factors controlling the retention of soluble organic nutrients after disturbance. Solution chemistry was measured for 2 yr after clearcutting a small area in the surrounding undisturbed deciduous forest on a reference watershed at the Coweeta Hydrologic Laboratory in the Appalachian Mountains. Concentrations of dissolved organic C (DOC) and N (DON) [dissolved organic nitrogen] in slash leachate were 2.6 to 3.2 times the concentrations in throughfall from undisturbed forest. Concentrations in forest floor, A horizon, and B horizon solutions from cut plots were 1.2 to 3.8 times those from undisturbed forest. Dissolved organic P (DOP) concentrations in cut plots were 3.1 and 3.6 times those of uncut plots in solutions from slash and forest floor, respectively, but did not differ in mineral soil. Fluxes of DOC, DON, and DOP in all strata were greater in cut plots than uncut plots. Fluxes of DON were greater than those of ammonium plus nitrate N in all strata of both cut and uncut plots. We hypothesize that the well recognized retention mechanisms for inorganic nutrients combine with equilibrium adsorption of dissolved organic matter to efficiently buffer against leaching of both soluble inorganic and organic nutrients after clearcutting.