Spatial and Temporal Variability of Nitrogen Cycling in Northern Lower Michigan

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Net N mineralization and nitrification were studied in three forest ecosystems to gain an understanding of the spatial and temporal variability of N transformations. The upland forests studied were two sugar maple ecosystems that differed in overstory associates and ground flora composition, and an oak ecosystem. Three stands in each ecosystem were sampled to provide spatial replication within a 250,000 ha area in northwestern Lower Michigan. Overstory biomass and annual increment were estimated using species-specific allometric biomass equations. Net N mineralization and nitrification were determined by an in situ buried polyethylene bag technique in which surface soil samples were incubated at monthly intervals for one year. Litter was collected during autumn in each ecosystem from one randomly selected stand. Aboveground biomass was lowest in the oak ecosystem (151 t ha-1) and greatest in the sugar maple-basswood/Osmorhiza ecosystem (209 t ha-1). Net annual N mineralization was 313 g N g-1 yr-1 in the oak ecosystem and was significantly less than annual mineralization in the two sugar maple ecosystems. Mineral N production in the sugar maple-basswood/Osmorhiza and sugar maple-red oak/Maianthemum ecosystems was 426 and 382 g N g-1 yr-1, respectively. Nitrification was greatest in the sugar maple-basswood/Osmorhiza ecosystem where 85% of mineral N was oxidized to NO3- (364 g N g-1 yr-1). Nitrification was minimal in the oak forest, totaling 6% of annual mineralization (18 g N g-1 yr-1). Results suggest that ecosystem types may be used to predict spatial patterns of N transformations at regional scales. For. Sci. 36(2):367-380.

Keywords: N mineralization; ecological land classification; litterfall; nitrification; overstory biomass

Document Type: Journal Article

Affiliations: Department of Forestry, Michigan State University, East Lansing, Michigan 48824-1222

Publication date: June 1, 1990

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  • Forest Science is a peer-reviewed journal publishing fundamental and applied research that explores all aspects of natural and social sciences as they apply to the function and management of the forested ecosystems of the world. Topics include silviculture, forest management, biometrics, economics, entomology & pathology, fire & fuels management, forest ecology, genetics & tree improvement, geospatial technologies, harvesting & utilization, landscape ecology, operations research, forest policy, physiology, recreation, social sciences, soils & hydrology, and wildlife management.
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