Do decomposing Scots pine, Norway spruce, and silver birch stems retain nitrogen?

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Abstract:

The contents of nitrogen (N) have generally been observed to increase in the early stages of decomposition in coarse woody debris and then to decrease slowly. This is potentially an important mechanism of nutrient retention in ecosystems after disturbances. We studied N dynamics in decomposing Scots pine (Pinus sylvestris L.), Norway spruce (Picea abies (L.) Karst.), and silver birch (Betula pendula Roth.) stems in Finland. The oldest stems had decomposed for 34 (spruce and birch) or 45 (pine) years. Concentrations of N in both fallen logs and standing snags increased and C/N ratios decreased with time, and birch had significantly higher N concentrations and lower C/N ratios than pine and spruce. Even though increased N contents were observed in some cases, N was generally already released in the early stages of decomposition and more rapidly from birch than from conifers. Based on model analysis, from 40% (pine and spruce) to 50% (birch) of initial N was released within 30years. The results suggest that decomposing stems of especially Scots pine and Norway spruce retain N rather effectively in boreal forest ecosystems and form a long-term, small but steady N pool with a slow release rate.

La teneur en azote (N) augmente généralement durant les premiers stades de décomposition des débris ligneux grossiers puis diminue lentement par la suite. Il s’agit possiblement d’un mécanisme important de rétention des nutriments dans les écosystèmes à la suite d’une perturbation. Nous avons étudié la dynamique de N dans des tiges en décomposition de pin sylvestre (Pinus sylvestris L.), d’épicéa commun (Picea abies L. Karst.) et de bouleau verruqueux (Betula pendula Roth) en Finlande. Les plus vieilles tiges se décomposaient depuis 34 (épicéa et bouleau) ou 45 ans (pin). La concentration de N tant dans les billes au sol que dans les chicots augmentait et le rapport C/N diminuait avec le temps. La concentration de N était significativement plus élevée et le rapport C/N significativement plus faible chez le bouleau que chez le pin et l’épicéa. Bien qu’une augmentation de la teneur en N ait été observée dans certains cas, N était généralement libéré dès les premiers stades de décomposition et cela plus rapidement chez le bouleau que chez les conifères. Sur la base de l’analyse réalisée à l’aide d’un modèle, 40% (pin et épicéa) à 50% (bouleau) de la quantité initiale de N a été libérée au cours des 30 premières années. Les résultats indiquent que les tiges en décomposition de pin sylvestre et d’épicéa commun, en particulier, retiennent N plutôt efficacement dans les écosystèmes de forêt boréale et constituent à long terme un réservoir modeste mais stable de N dont la libération est lente.

Document Type: Research Article

Publication date: December 1, 2008

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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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