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Influences of a calcium gradient on soil inorganic nitrogen in the adirondack mountains, new york

Page, Blair D., Mitchell, Myron J.
Ecological applications 2008 v.18 no.7 pp. 1604-1614
forest soils, temperate forests, Acer saccharum, Tilia americana, Fagus grandifolia, forest trees, botanical composition, soil fertility, nitrogen, calcium, acid deposition, forested watersheds, nitrate nitrogen, nitrification, ammonium nitrogen, spatial variation, species differences, forest litter, mineralization, biogeochemical cycles, New York
Studies of the long‐term impacts of acidic deposition in Europe and North America have prompted growing interest in understanding the dynamics linking the nitrogen (N) and calcium (Ca) cycles in forested watersheds. While it has been shown that increasing concentrations of nitrate (NO₃⁻) through atmospheric deposition or through nitrification can increase Ca loss, the reciprocal effects of Ca on N transformation processes have received less attention. We studied the influence of soil Ca availability on extractable inorganic N (NO₃⁻ + NH₄⁺) across a Ca gradient in the Adirondack Mountains, New York, USA. Our results did not show the direct Ca–N interaction that we had expected, but instead showed that exchangeable Ca coupled with soil moisture, soil organic matter, and ambient temperature accounted for 61% of the variability in extractable inorganic N across 11 sites over two growing seasons. Soil Ca concentrations were, however, positively related to sugar maple (Acer saccharum) and American basswood (Tilia americana) basal areas and negatively related to American beech (Fagus grandifolia) basal area. Based on litter chemistry differences among these tree species and reported potential N mineralization values, we suggest that the influence of Ca on soil inorganic N is through a multistep pathway: reciprocal interactions between soil Ca concentrations and species composition, which in turn affect the quality of litter available for N mineralization. If chronic soil Ca depletion continues, as reported in some forested ecosystems, potential shifts in biotic communities could result in considerable alterations of N cycling processes.