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Fertilization of Danish Forests: A Review of Experiments

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Fertilization experiments in Norway spruce stands on nutrient-poor sites have been practised in Denmark since the eighteenth century. Until 1950, the main aim was to find a nitrogen (N) source that improved the survival of plants in the early growth phase. The N supply could be improved by intercropping with N2-fixing plants, and fertilization with phosphorus (P) and potassium (K) improved the growth of the N2 fixers, thereby improving tree growth and survival. Positive responses of P and K in spruce cultures were seen in the 1960s, and in most cases the N response was dependent on the supply of P and K. Fertilization experiments in mature spruce stands began in the 1960s. Despite 20 yrs of experimentation, no trends can be deduced. The results discouraged fertilization aimed at increasing growth in mature stands, and fertilization stopped in 1989. After 1980, fertilizers were used in experiments aimed at clarifying the causes and effects of forest decline. Fertilization and liming counteracted soil acidification and increased needle nutrient concentrations when they were below deficiency levels. However, positive growth responses have only been recorded in some of the experiments where nutrient deficiencies were overcome. The experiments have not resulted in practical revitalization programmes. Future fertilization of Danish forests may be limited to systems where nutrient extraction is in excess of the carrying capacity of the ecosystem, and presumably where spruce plantations are converted to broadleaved forests. Finally, future events of deposition of acidifying compounds may necessitate counteractive measures.
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Document Type: Research Article

Publication date: 2001-12-01

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