Nitrogen saturation in a high elevation New England spruce-fir stand

  • Authors: McNulty, Steven G.; Aber, John D.; Newman, Steven D.
  • Publication Year: 1994
  • Publication Series: Miscellaneous Publication
  • Source: Forest Ecology and Management 84(1994) 109- 121


High rates of nitrogen (N) deposition were first postulated as a cause of N saturation (i.e. the availability of NH-N and NO3-N in excess of total combined plant and microbial nutritional demand) and spruce mortality during the1980s. To test this hypothesis, N addition plots were established in 1988, in a high elevation spruce-fir forest in southeastern Vermont, an area of relatively low N deposition (5.4 kg N bulk deposition ha-1 year-1). To test how the form of applied N may influence forest growth and N-cycling, four replicated treatment plots received either NH4-N,NaNO3-N or a combination of both N forms at rates ranging from 15.7 to 31.4 kg N ha-1 year-1. The N additions were applied in threeequal doses each year between June and August from 1988 to 1994. In addition to N treatments, two control plots were also established. Between 1988 and 1990, annual in situ net N mineralization and net nitrification in the forest floor, litterfall and forest floor mass and elemental concentration, foliar elemental concentration, and basal area growth by species were measured on each plot. In July 1994, basal area growth by species, net N mineralization potential and net nitrification potential inthe forest floor. and foliar and forest floor elemental concentration were again measured on all plots. Inter-treatment and intra-tnat- merit basal area growth changed substantially between 1988 and 1994. Spruce, fir. and birch treeson the N addition plots receiving< 20 kg N ha-1 year-1 had the highest rate of growth between 1988 and 1990and then had the highest rate of decline between 1991 and 1994. Spruce, fir, and birch trees on the N addition plots receiving > 25 kg N ha-1 year-1 showed moderate rates of decline from 1988 to 1994. Numerous birch and maple sprouts were noted on the sites with the highest rates of decline, but no spruce or fir seedlings were observed. In July 1994, net N mineralization potential was highest on the control plots and net nitrification potential of the forest floor was highest on the plots receiving 15.7 kg N ha-1 year-1. A strong positive correlation existed between forest floor %N and net nitrification potential. Foliar %N was positively con-elated with added N and negatively correlated with the change in net basal area growth. Foliar Ca:AI concenvations may also be negatively related to changes in net basal area growth. Our results suggest that N saturation has caused foliar nutrient imbalances on the N addition plots, and that the stands maybe changing in species composition and structure. No long-term effects of N-form additions on N saturation and forest health were observed.

  • Citation: McNulty, Steven G.; Aber, John D.; Newman, Steven D. 1994. Nitrogen saturation in a high elevation New England spruce-fir stand. Forest Ecology and Management 84(1994) 109- 121
  • Posted Date: April 1, 1980
  • Modified Date: August 22, 2006
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