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Impacts of enhanced nitrogen deposition and soil acidification on biomass production and nitrogen leaching in Chinese fir plantations

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Atmospheric pollution levels in China are increasing quickly. Experience from other polluted regions shows that tree growth could be affected, but long-term effects of N deposition and soil acidification on Chinese forests remain mostly unknown. Soil acidification and N deposition were simulated for Chinese fir (Cunninghamia lanceolata (Lamb.) Hook.) plantations managed for three consecutive 20-year rotations in southeastern China. A factorial experiment combined four rain pH levels (2.5, 4.0, 5.6, and 7.0), four N deposition rates (1, 7.5, 15, and 30 kg N·ha–1·year–1), and two site qualities (poor and rich). Results indicate that atmospheric pollution effects are not immediate, but after one to two rotations, soil acidification effects could reduce ecosystem C pools significantly (–25% and –11% in poor and rich sites, respectively). N deposition rates above 15 kg N·ha–1·year–1 could offset some of the negative effects of soil acidification and lead to more ecosystem C (19 and 28 Mg C·ha–1 more in poor and rich sites, respectively, than in low N deposition). However, at high N deposition rates (>15 kg N·ha–1·year–1), N leaching losses could greatly increase, reaching 75 kg N·ha–1·year–1. Moderate N deposition could increase tree biomass production and soil organic mass, resulting in increased ecosystem C, but these gains could be associated with important N leaching. Atmospheric pollution could also result in the long term in nutrient imbalances and additional ecological issues (i.e., biodiversity loss, eutrophication, etc.) not studied here.

Document Type: Research Article


Affiliations: 1: Department of Forest Science, University of British Columbia, 2424 Main Mall, Vancouver, BC V6T 1Z4, Canada. 2: Department of Earth and Environmental Sciences, University of British Columbia, 3333 University Way, Kelowna, BC V1V 1V7, Canada. 3: State Key Laboratory of Subtropical Forest Science & Zhejiang Provincial Key Laboratory of Carbon Cycling in Forest Ecosystems and Carbon Sequestration, Zhejiang Agriculture and Forestry University, Hangzhou, 311300, Zhejiang, China.

Publication date: March 15, 2012

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