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Research article - Peer-reviewed, 2002

Nitrogen mineralization and phenol accumulation along a fire chronosequence in northern Sweden

DeLuca, TH; Nilsson, MC; Zackrisson, O


Scots pine (Pinus sylvestris L.) forests of northern Sweden are often considered to be N limited. This limitation may have been exacerbated by the elimination of wildfire as a natural disturbance factor in these boreal forests. Phenolic inhibition of N mineralization and nitrification (due to litter and exudates of ericaceous shrubs) has been proposed as a mechanism for N limitation of these forests, but this hypothesis remains largely untested. N mineralization rates, nitrification rates, and sorption of free phenolic compounds were assessed along a fire-induced chronosequence in northern Sweden. A total of 34 forest stands varying in age since the last fire were identified and characterized. Overstorey and understorey vegetative composition and depth of humus were analysed in replicated plots at all 34 sites. Eight of the forest stands aged 3-352 years since the last fire were selected for intensive investigation in which ten replicate ionic resin capsules (used to assess net N mineralization and nitrification) and non-ionic carbonaceous resin capsules (used to assess free phenolic compounds) were installed at the interface of humus and mineral soil. A highly significant correlation was observed between site age and net sorption of inorganic N to resin capsules. Net accumulation of NH4+ and NO3- on resin capsules followed a linear decrease (R-2=0.61, P<0.01) with time perhaps as a result of increased N immobilization with successional C loading. NO3- sorption to resin capsules followed a logarithmic decrease (R-2=0.80, P<0.01) that may be related to a logarithmic increase in dwarf shrub cover and decreased soil charcoal sorption potential along this chronosequence. A replicated field study was conducted at one of the late successional field sites to assess the influence of charcoal and an added labile N source on N turnover. Three rates of charcoal (0, 100, and 1,000 g M-2) and two rates of glycine (0 and 50 g N as glycine M-2) were applied in a factorial design to microplots in a randomized complete block pattern. Net ammonification (as assessed by NH4+ sorption to resins) was readily increased by the addition of a labile N source, but this increase in NH4+ did not stimulate nitrification. Nitrification was stimulated slightly by the addition of charcoal resulting in similar levels of resin-sorbed NO3- as those found in early successional sites. Resin-sorbed polyphenol concentrations were decreased with charcoal amendments, but were actually increased with N amendments (likely due to decomposition of polyphenols). Net N mineralization appears to be limited by rapid NH4+ immobilization whereas nitrification is limited by the lack of an appropriate environment or by the presence of inhibitory compounds in late successional forests of northern Sweden.


boreal forest; succession; charcoal; nitrogen transformations

Published in

2002, Volume: 133, number: 2, pages: 206-214

    SLU Authors

      • Zackrisson, Olle

        • Department of Forest Vegetation Ecology, Swedish University of Agricultural Sciences

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