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Nitrogen-bedrock interactions regulate multi-element nutrient limitation and sustainability in forests

April 28, 2023

Nutrient limitation of tree growth can intensify when nutrients are lost to forest harvest, creating challenges for forest growth and sustainability. Forest harvest accelerates nutrient loss by removing nutrient-containing biomass and by increasing nutrient leaching, shaping patterns of nutrient depletion that cause long-term shifts in nutrient limitation. Nitrogen most frequently limits tree growth, but where nitrogen is abundant, nutrient limitation often shifts to phosphorus and base cations, depending on soil mineralogy. We used the process-based biogeochemical model NutsFor to evaluate how multiple elements can limit long-term forest growth via interactions between soil nitrogen (low vs. high nitrogen) and soil mineralogy (sedimentary vs. basaltic bedrock). Simulations were run for 525 years with 40-year harvest intervals for managed Douglas-fir forests of the Oregon Coast Range. In low nitrogen sites, nutrient limitation switched after several centuries from nitrogen to phosphorus, as cycles of forest growth and harvest depleted soil organic phosphorus pools. In contrast, high nitrogen sites displayed severe base cation depletion and reduced tree growth within only one to two rotations, with sedimentary bedrock sites limited by calcium and basaltic sites by both calcium and potassium. Harvesting stimulated the largest fractional losses of nitrogen and potassium across all simulations, and additionally of calcium in high nitrogen sites. These multi-element simulations of interactions among harvesting, soil nitrogen, and bedrock type provide a set of testable predictions to guide monitoring and changes in management aimed at sustaining long-term forest productivity across a wide range of soil biogeochemical conditions.

Publication Year 2023
Title Nitrogen-bedrock interactions regulate multi-element nutrient limitation and sustainability in forests
DOI 10.1007/s10533-023-01039-6
Authors Kaveh G. Siah, Steven Perakis, Julie C. Pett-Ridge, Gregory van der Heijden
Publication Type Article
Publication Subtype Journal Article
Series Title Biogeochemistry
Index ID 70243337
Record Source USGS Publications Warehouse
USGS Organization Forest and Rangeland Ecosystem Science Center