Articles | Volume 10, issue 2
Research article
15 Feb 2013
Research article |  | 15 Feb 2013

Nitrogen balance of a boreal Scots pine forest

J. F. J. Korhonen, M. Pihlatie, J. Pumpanen, H. Aaltonen, P. Hari, J. Levula, A.-J. Kieloaho, E. Nikinmaa, T. Vesala, and H. Ilvesniemi

Abstract. The productivity of boreal forests is considered to be limited by low nitrogen (N) availability. Increased atmospheric N deposition has altered the functioning and N cycling of these N-sensitive ecosystems by increasing the availability of reactive nitrogen. The most important components of N pools and fluxes were measured in a boreal Scots pine stand in Hyytiälä, Southern Finland. The measurements at the site allowed direct estimations of nutrient pools in the soil and biomass, inputs from the atmosphere and outputs as drainage flow and gaseous losses from two micro-catchments. N was accumulating in the system, mainly in woody biomass, at a rate of 7 kg N ha−1 yr−1. Nitrogen input as atmospheric deposition was 7.4 kg N ha−1 yr−1. Dry deposition and organic N in wet deposition contributed over half of the inputs in deposition. Total outputs were 0.4 kg N ha−1 yr−1, the most important outputs being N2O emission to the atmosphere and organic N flux in drainage flow. Nitrogen uptake and retranslocation were equally important sources of N for plant growth. Most of the assimilated N originated from decomposition of organic matter, and the fraction of N that could originate directly from deposition was about 30%. In conclusion, atmospheric N deposition fertilizes the site considerably, but there are no signs of N saturation. Further research is needed to estimate soil N2 fluxes (emission and fixation), which may amount up to several kg N ha−1 yr−1.

Final-revised paper