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Soil layer-specific variability in net nitrification and denitrification in an acid coniferous forest



Soil layer-specific variability in net nitrification and denitrification in an acid coniferous forest



Biology and fertility of soils2(5): 427-434



High spatial variation in nitrification potentials has been observed in forest soils, but explanations for this variability have remained speculative. In the present study we determined whether sample treatment, sample size, denitrification or small-scale variations in abiotic properties could explain spatial variation in nitrogen transformations in the organic horizon of a pine forest soil. Net nitrate production in homogenates of the organic horizon was extremely variable. Sample size (60-600 cm2) had no significant effect on nitrate production. In homogenised samples no increased nitrogen production was observed compared to intact incubated cores. High small-scale variation in nitrate production was observed in the litter (L) horizon. When this stratified L layer was subdivided, high net nitrate production was observed in moss (LM) and fragmented needles, whereas no net nitrate production was found in intact needles. The addition of acetylene, inhibiting nitrous oxide reductase, led to significant nitrous oxide production in the L layer. Low nitrous oxide production was found in the LM layer and none in the fragmentation layer. These results show that denitrification can explain part of the spatial variation and plays a major role in nitrogen transformations in the L layer. The relatively higher pH and the presence of fungi are suggested as factors responsible for high denitrification rates in the L layer. As a consequence homogenisation of the organic horizon could lead to highly variable nitrate production due to denitrifying activity from the needles being introduced into other layers.

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Accession: 003562059

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DOI: 10.1007/s003740000274



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