Articles | Volume 10, issue 3
Research article
01 Mar 2013
Research article |  | 01 Mar 2013

The impact of four decades of annual nitrogen addition on dissolved organic matter in a boreal forest soil

M. O. Rappe-George, A. I. Gärdenäs, and D. B. Kleja

Abstract. Addition of mineral nitrogen (N) can alter the concentration and quality of dissolved organic matter (DOM) in forest soils. The aim of this study was to assess the effect of long-term mineral N addition on soil solution concentration of dissolved organic carbon (DOC) and dissolved organic nitrogen (DON) in Stråsan experimental forest (Norway spruce) in central Sweden. N was added yearly at two levels of intensity and duration: the N1 treatment represented a lower intensity but a longer duration (43 yr) of N addition than the shorter N2 treatment (24 yr). N additions were terminated in the N2 treatment in 1991. The N treatments began in 1967 when the spruce stands were 9 yr old. Soil solution in the forest floor O, and soil mineral B, horizons were sampled during the growing seasons of 1995 and 2009. Tension and non-tension lysimeters were installed in the O horizon (n = 6), and tension lysimeters were installed in the underlying B horizon (n = 4): soil solution was sampled at two-week intervals. Although tree growth and O horizon carbon (C) and N stock increased in treatments N1 and N2, the concentration of DOC in O horizon leachates was similar in both N treatments and control. This suggests an inhibitory direct effect of N addition on O horizon DOC. Elevated DON and nitrate in O horizon leachates in the ongoing N1 treatment indicated a move towards N saturation. In B horizon leachates, the N1 treatment approximately doubled leachate concentrations of DOC and DON. DON returned to control levels, but DOC remained elevated in B horizon leachates in N2 plots nineteen years after termination of N addition. We propose three possible explanations for the increased DOC in mineral soil: (i) the result of decomposition of a larger amount of root litter, either directly producing DOC or (ii) indirectly via priming of old SOM, and/or (iii) a suppression of extracellular oxidative enzymes.

Final-revised paper