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Forest floor soil and vegetation responses to sludge fertilization in red pine pinus resinosa and white pine pinus strobus plantations

Forest floor soil and vegetation responses to sludge fertilization in red pine pinus resinosa and white pine pinus strobus plantations

Soil Science Society of America Journal 47(4): 776-784

An undigested, nutrient-enriched papermill sludge applied to a 40-yr-old red P. resinosa Ait. plantation at rates of 4, 8, 16 and 32 mg/ha resulted in N application rates of 282, 565, 1130, and 2260 kg/ha. An anaerobically digested municipal sludge applied to a 36-yr-old red pine and P. strobus L. plantation at rates of 4.8, 9.7 and 19.3 mg/ha resulted in N applications of 287, 578 and 1160 kg/ha. Both sludges produced significant forest floor increases in total salt, pH, and concentrations of N and P. The municipal sludge application also resulted in increased levels of trace elements and heavy metals. Accelerated humification developed along the interface between the sludge layer and the accumulated forest litter. Movement of nutrients from the forest floor into the soil was generally limited to NO3, NH3 and total P leaching into the upper soil layers. Very small fluctuations in nutrient levels occurred in the soil below 15 cm. Understory N and P levels increased in treated plots on both sites while Cd increased on plots treated with municipal sludge. Understory biomass increases of up to 132% over controls were measured on sludge-treated plots. No metal toxicity symptoms were observed and sludge-treated understory vegetation remained green later into the growing season well after that on untreated plots had begun to discolor and approach dormancy. Overstory foliar N concentrations increased on sludge-treated plots, improving the N:P ratio in the pines. Increases in fasicle dry weight and needle length were noted in sludge-treated red pine, as were increases in radial growth in white pine. Evidence 2 growing seasons following sludge fertilization indicated an increased canopy weight, thus an enhanced potential for photosynthesis.

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