Effect of chronic nitrogen additions on soil nitrogen fractions in red spruce stands

M. B. David, A. M. Cupples, G. B. Lawrence, G. Shi, K. Vogt, P. M. Wargo

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


The responses of temperate and boreal forest ecosystems to increased nitrogen (N) inputs have been varied, and the responses of soil N pools have been difficult to measure. In this study, fractions and pool sizes of N were determined in the forest floor of red spruce stands at four sites in the northeastern U.S. to evaluate the effect of increased N inputs on forest floor N. Two of the stands received 100 kg N ha-1 yr-1 for three years, one stand received 34 kg N ha-1 yr-1 for six years, and the remaining stand received only ambient N inputs. No differences in total N content or N fractions were measured in samples of the Oie and Oa horizons between treated and control plots in the three sites that received N amendments. The predominant N fraction in these samples was amino acid N (31-45 % of total N), followed by hydrolyzable unidentified N (16-31% of total N), acid- soluble N (18-22 % of total N), and NH4/+-N (9-13 % of total N). Rates of atmospheric deposition varied greatly among the four stands. Ammonium N and amino acid N concentrations in the Oie horizon were positively related to wet N deposition, with respective r2 values of 0.92 and 0.94 (n = 4, p < 0.05). These relationships were somewhat stronger than that observed between atmospheric wet N deposition and total N content of the forest floor, suggesting that these pools retain atmospherically deposited N. The NH4/+- N pool may represent atmospherically deposited N that is incorporated into organic matter, whereas the amino acid N pool could result from microbial immobilization of atmospheric N inputs. The response of forest floor N pools to applications of N may be masked, possibly by the large soil N pool, which has been increased by the long-term input of N from atmospheric deposition, thereby overwhelming the short-term treatments.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)183-192
Number of pages10
JournalWater, Air, and Soil Pollution
Issue number1-2
StatePublished - Jul 1998


  • Forest nitrogen cycling
  • Forest soil chemistry
  • Forest soil nitrogen fractions
  • Nitrogen deposition

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Environmental Engineering
  • Environmental Chemistry
  • Ecological Modeling
  • Water Science and Technology
  • Pollution


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