Biotic and abiotic nitrogen retention in a variety of forest soils

Publication Type:

Journal Article

Source:

SOIL SCIENCE SOCIETY OF AMERICA JOURNAL, SOIL SCI SOC AMER, Volume 64, Number 4, 677 SOUTH SEGOE ROAD, MADISON, WI 53711 USA, p.1503-1514 (2000)

Abstract:

Nitrogen (N) immobilization in sterilized (abiotic) and non-sterilized (biotic) O and A horizons was studied to determine the relative importance of biotic and abiotic processes in N retention in forest ecosystems. We collected samples from a variety of forest locations in Washington, Nevada, California, Tennessee, and North Carolina with differing soil types, vegetation, N status, and soil acidity. Included among these sites were adjacent stands of N-2-fixing and non-N-2-fixing species and sites of differing N status due to slope position at a given location. We treated O and A horizon samples from each site with ((NH4)-N-15)(SO4)-S-2; sterilization was achieved by adding HgCl2, which proved to be highly effective. We found significant levels of both abiotic and biotic N immobilization in all soils. Biotic N immobilization was much greater in the N-poor sites in California and Nevada than in the other sites and was inversely related to N concentration overall. Biotic immobilization was directly related to pH and base saturation among ll sites, but we hypothesize that these correlations resulted from a correlation between those parameters and N concentration. Abiotic N immobilization varied less than biotic N immobilization across sites and was unrelated to N concentration or pH. The percentage of total N immobilization as abiotic N immobilization varied considerably (from 6-90%), and was positively correlated with N concentration. These results suggest that abiotic N immobilization can be a significant process in a variety of soil types. Across soil types with increasing N saturation, biotic N immobilization decreases and abiotic N immobilization accounts for a greater proportion of total N immobilization.