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Title: Disturbance and topography shape nitrogen availability and ä15N over long-term forest succession

Author: Perakis, Steven S.; Tepley, Alan J.; Compton, Jana E.;

Date: 2015

Source: Ecosystems

Publication Series: Scientific Journal (JRNL)

Description: Forest disturbance and long-term succession towards old-growth are thought to increase nitrogen (N) availability and N loss, which should increase soil ä15N values. We examined soil and foliar patterns in N and ä15N, and soil N mineralization, across 800 years of forest succession in a topographically complex montane landscape influenced by human logging and wildfire. In contrast to expectations, we found that disturbance caused declines in surface mineral soil ä15N values, both in logged forests measured 40–50 years after disturbance, and in unlogged forests disturbed by severe wildfire within the last 200 years. Both symbiotic N fixation and N transfers from disturbed vegetation and detritus could lower soil ä15Nvalues after disturbance. A more important role for symbiotic N fixation is suggested by lower soil ä15N values in slow-successional sites with slow canopy closure, which favors early-successional N fixers. Soil ä15N values increased only marginally throughout 800 years of succession, reflecting soil N uptake by vegetation and strong overall N retention. Although post-disturbance N inputs lowered surface soil ä15N values, steady-state mass balance calculations suggest that wildfire combustion of vegetation and detritus can dominate long-term N loss and increase whole-ecosystem ä15N. On steeper topography, declining soil ä15N values highlight erosion and accelerated soil turnover as an additional abiotic control on N balances. We conclude for N-limited montane forests that soil ä15N and N availability are less influenced by nitrate leaching and denitrification loss than by interactions between disturbance, N fixation, and erosion.

Keywords: fire, logging, erosion, nitrogen isotope, nitrogen mineralization, nitrogen fixation.

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  • This article was written and prepared by U.S. Government employees on official time, and is therefore in the public domain.

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Citation:


Perakis, Steven S.; Tepley, Alan J.; Compton, Jana E. 2015. Disturbance and topography shape nitrogen availability and ä15N over long-term forest succession. Ecosystems. 18(4): 573-588.

 


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