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Meta-analysis of fertilization experiments indicates multiple limiting nutrients in northeastern deciduous forests

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It is widely accepted that N limits primary production in temperate forests, although colimitation by N and P has also been suggested, and on some soils, Ca and base cations are in short supply. I conducted a meta-analysis to assess the strength of existing experimental evidence for limitation of primary production by N, P, and Ca in hardwood forests of the northeastern United States and southeastern Canada using data from 35 fertilization experiments in deciduous forests on glaciated soils across the region. There is strong evidence for N limitation (formal meta-analysis weighted mean response ratio= 1.51, p< 0.01; simple mean= 1.42, p< 0.001). Forest productivity also tended to increase with additions of P (simple mean= 1.15, p= 0.05) and Ca (simple mean= 1.36, p< 0.001). Across all treatments, 85% of response ratios were positive. Multiple-element additions had larger effects than single elements, but factorial experiments showed little evidence of synergistic effects between nutrient additions. Production responses correlated positively with the rate of N fertilization, but this effect was reduced at high rates of ambient N deposition.

Il est généralement accepté que le N limite la production primaire des forêts tempérées, quoique l’action conjointe de N et de P ait aussi été suggérée et que le Ca et les cations basiques soient parfois limitatifs. J’ai réalisé une méta-analyse dans le but d’évaluer la solidité des preuves expérimentales existantes que N, P et Ca limitent la production primaire dans les forêts feuillues du nord-est des États-Unis et du sud-est du Canada à l’aide de 35 expériences de fertilisation réalisées dans des forêts feuillues établies sur des sols d’origine glaciaire de cette région. Il y a des preuves manifestes de l’effet limitatif de N (rapport formel de la réponse moyenne pondérée de la méta-analyse= 1,51, p< 0,01; moyenne simple= 1,42, p< 0,001). La productivité forestière tend aussi à augmenter à la suite d’amendements en P (moyenne simple= 1,15, p= 0,05) et en Ca (moyenne simple= 1,36, p< 0,001). Parmi tous les traitements, 85% des rapports de réponse étaient positifs. Les amendements en éléments multiples ont eu plus d’effets que les amendements en éléments simples, mais les expériences factorielles ont montré peu d’effets synergiques entre les amendements en nutriments. La production était positivement corrélée au taux de fertilisation azotée, mais l’effet de la fertilisation diminuait lorsque le taux de dépôt de N ambiant était élevé.

Document Type: Research Article

Publication date: September 1, 2010

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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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