Callesen, I; Borken, W; Kalbitz, K; Matzner, E: Long-term development of nitrogen fluxes in a coniferous ecosystem: Does soil freezing trigger nitrate leaching?, Journal of Plant Nutrition and Soil Science, 170, 189-196 (2007), doi:10.1002/jpln.200622034
In many forest ecosystems chronically large atmospheric deposition of N has caused considerable losses of inorganic N by seepage. Freezing and thawing of soil may alter the N turnover in soils and thereby the interannual variation of N seepage fluxes, which in turn makes it difficult to evaluate the N status of forest ecosystems. Here, we analyzed long-term monitoring data of concentrations and fluxes of dissolved inorganic N (DIN) in throughfall and seepage from a Norway spruce stand at the Fichtelgebirge (SE Germany) between 1993 and 2004. Despite constant or even slightly increasing N inputs in throughfall, N losses with seepage at 90 cm declined from 15-32 kg N ha-1 y-1 in the first years of the study period (1993-1999) to 3-10 kg N ha-1 y-1 in 2000 to 2004. The large N losses in the first years coincided with extreme soil frost in the winter of 1995/96, ranging from -3.3°C to -1.0°C at 35 cm soil depth. Over the entire observation period, maximum fluxes of nitrate and ammonium were observed in the mineral soil following thawing of the soil. The elevated ammonium and nitrate fluxes resulted apparently from increased net ammonification and nitrification rates in the mineral soil, whereas mineral-N fluxes in the O horizon were less affected by frost. Our data suggest that (1) extreme soil frost may cause substantial annual variations of nitrate losses with seepage and that (2) the assessment of the N status of forest ecosystems requires long periods of monitoring. Time series of biogeochemical data collected over the last 20-30 y include years with extreme cold winters and warm summers as well as unusual precipitation patterns. Analysis of such long-term monitoring data should address climate extremes as a cause of variation in N outputs via leaching. The mean loss of 14.7 kg N with seepage water during 12 y of observation suggests that the forest ecosystem was saturated with N.
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