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Relation of soil-, surface-, and ground-water distributions of inorganic nitrogen with topographic position in harvested and unharvested portions of an aspen-dominated catchment in the Boreal Plain

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Abstract:

Spatial distributions of soil extractable nitrate (NO3) and ammonium (NH+4) concentrations were related to surface- and ground-water NO3 and NH+4 concentrations in harvested and forested sections of a catchment dominated by trembling aspen (Populus tremuloides Michx.) in the subhumid boreal forest of Alberta, Canada. NO3 and NH+4 concentrations in soils varied spatially throughout the catchment and were larger in surface soils than in subsurface soils. Spatial distributions of soil inorganic nitrogen (N) concentrations were not explained by the harvested versus the unharvested condition; heterogeneity was instead related to topographic position. NO3 concentrations in both surface and subsurface soils were largest in ephemeral draws and wetlands. NH+4 concentrations in subsurface soils were largest in ephemeral draws and wetlands, but this pattern was not apparent for surface soils. Soil NO3 and NH+4 availability and surface- and ground-water NO3 and NH+4 concentrations reflected soil NO3 and H+4 concentrations. N-rich surface soils in both forested and harvested areas have a large potential for releasing N to surface waters. This study indicates that even though topography is subtle in this catchment, topographic position and its soil moisture relations, along with vegetation demand, can influence N transformation and transport in both forested and harvested portions of the Boreal Plain landscape.

La distribution spatiale des concentrations de nitrate (NO3) et d'ammonium (NH+4) extractibles du sol a été reliée aux concentrations de NO3 et NH+4 dans les eaux de surface et souterraine dans les sections boisées et coupées d'un bassin dominé par le peuplier faux-tremble (Populus tremuloides Michx.) dans la forêt boréale sub-humide de l'Alberta, au Canada. La concentration de NO3 et NH+4 dans le sol variait spatialement partout dans le bassin et elle était plus élevée dans le sol de surface que sous la surface. La distribution spatiale de la concentration d'azote (N) inorganique n'était pas expliquée par les conditions associées à la coupe ou à l'absence de coupe et l'hétérogénéité était plutôt reliée à la position topographique. La concentration de NO3 dans le sol, tant en surface que sous la surface, était la plus élevée dans les ravines temporaires et les zones humides. La concentration de NH+4 dans le sol sous la surface était la plus élevée dans les ravines temporaires et les zones humides mais ce n'était pas le cas dans le sol en surface. La disponibilité de NO3 et NH+4 dans le sol et la concentration de NO3 et NH+4 dans les eaux de surface et souterraine reflétaient la concentration de NO3 et NH+4 dans le sol. Les sols de surface riches en N, tant dans les zones boisées que coupées, ont une grande capacité de libérer du N dans l'eau de surface. Cette étude indique que, même si la topographie est peu contrastée dans ce bassin, la position topographique et sa relation avec l'humidité du sol, combinées à la demande créée par la végétation, peuvent influencer la transformation et le transport de N, tant dans les portions boisées que coupées du paysage de la plaine boréale.[Traduit par la Rédaction]

Document Type: Research Article

Publication date: September 1, 2006

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  • Published since 1971, this monthly journal features articles, reviews, notes and commentaries on all aspects of forest science, including biometrics and mensuration, conservation, disturbance, ecology, economics, entomology, fire, genetics, management, operations, pathology, physiology, policy, remote sensing, social science, soil, silviculture, wildlife and wood science, contributed by internationally respected scientists. It also publishes special issues dedicated to a topic of current interest.
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