Title: Soil nitrogen levels are linked to decomposition enzyme activities along an urban-remote tropical forest gradient
Author: Cusack, D. F.;
Source: Soil Biology and Biochemistry 57:192-203.
Publication Series: Scientific Journal (JRNL)
Description: Urban areas in tropical regions are expanding rapidly, with significant potential to affect local ecosystem dynamics. In particular, nitrogen (N) availability may increase in urban-proximate forests because of atmospheric N deposition. Unlike temperate forests, many tropical forests on highly weathered soils have high background N availability, so plant growth is unlikely to respond to increased N inputs. However, microbial activity and decomposition of carbon-rich plant tissue can respond positively to added N in these forests, as has been observed in a growing number of fertilization studies. The relevance of these controlled studies to landscape-scale dynamics in urban-proximate moist tropical forests requires further investigation. I used ten forest stands in three watersheds along an urban-remote gradient in Puerto Rico to test the hypotheses that urban activity has a positive effect on soil N availability, and that decomposition enzyme activities vary with soil N. I found that mineral N, total dissolved N (TDN), and ammonium:nitrate (NH4+:NO3-) ratios varied by nearly one order of magnitude across the urban-remote gradient, and variability among urban sites was high. On average, urban forests had higher soil NO3 -, lower NH4 +, and lower C:N values than remote forests, suggesting high nitrification rates and/or external inputs of NO3- to the urban forests, and enrichment in N relative to C. Total mineral N and total dissolved N were positively correlated with the activities of enzymes that acquire carbon (C) and phosphorus (P) from organic matter. Across this gradient soil N levels were stronger predictors of enzyme activities than soil C or pH, which drive enzyme activities globally. The ratio of NH4 +:NO3 - was the strongest predictor of oxidative enzyme activities. Compared to global averages, ratios of C:N:P enzyme activities across these tropical forests indicated lower relative N-acquisition and higher relative P-acquisition, with N-acquisition lowest in the urbanwatershed, and P-acquisition highest in the upper-elevation remote watershed. These results suggest a strong urban effect on forest soil N levels, and show a link between changes in N availability and microbial processing of soil organic matter.
Keywords: Rural, Suburban, Nutrient acquisition, Ammonium, Nitrate, Puerto Rico, Microbial
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Cusack, D. F. 2013. Soil nitrogen levels are linked to decomposition enzyme activities along an urban-remote tropical forest gradient. Soil Biology and Biochemistry 57:192-203.
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