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The importance of catchment slope to soil water N and c concentrations in riparian zones: implications for riparian buffer width

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Title: The importance of catchment slope to soil water N and c concentrations in riparian zones: implications for riparian buffer width
Author: Hazlett, P.; Broad, K.; Sibley, P.; Buttle, J.; Larmer, D.
Abstract: The potential impact of timber harvesting in the boreal forest on aquatic ecosystem water quality and productivity depends in part on the production of nutrients within the soil of the harvested catchment. Nitrogen supplied by organic matter decomposition is of particular interest because of the important role that N plays in biotic processes in surface waters, and in forest nutrition in general. Logging slash quality and input to the forest floor has the potential to influence N availability after harvest on clearcut sites. Net production of organic and inorganic-N and microbial biomass C and N concentrations were determined during a 90-day laboratory incubation at constant temperature and moisture. Incubated soils included F horizon and shallow mineral soil horizons (0–5 cm) from unharvested and full-tree harvested (2 and 12 growing seasons since harvest) boreal forest sites at the Esker Lakes Research Area (ELRA), in northeastern Ontario, Canada. In an ancillary experiment, black spruce foliage was added to unharvested forest floor material after 30 days during a 90-day laboratory incubation to simulate the influence of logging slash from full-tree harvesting on C and N dynamics. Twelve-year old clearcut F horizon material released on average 75 and 5 times more NO 3 -N and 3 and 2 times as much inorganic-N than soil collected from unharvested and 2-year-old clearcuts, respectively. This increase in NO 3 -N accumulation during the incubation was accompanied by decreases in both exchangeable NH4 -N and microbial biomass C and N levels. Net daily changes in microbial biomass N were significantly related to organic and inorganic-N accumulation or loss within the F horizon. Mineral soil release of inorganic-N was lower than release from the forest floor. Nitrate-nitrogen accumulation was lower, and NH4+ -N accumulation was higher in mineral soil from unharvested sites when compared to 12-year-old clearcuts. Calculated harvest response ratios indicated that incubated mineral soil from the 12-year-old clearcut sites released significantly greater amounts of NO 3 -N than 2-year-old clearcuts. Incorporation of black spruce needles into F horizon material reduced the production of organic and inorganic-N and increased microbial biomass N. Laboratory incubations of F horizon and shallow mineral soil from 12-year-old clearcuts suggested that these boreal soils have the capacity for increased inorganic-N production compared to uncut stands several years after harvesting. This has the potential to increase N availability to growing boreal forest plantations and increase N leaching due to greater NO 3 -N levels in the forest soil.
URI: http://hdl.handle.net/10214/2940
Date: 2008
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Citation: Hazlett, P., Broad, K., Sibley, P., Buttle, J., and Larmer, D. "The importance of catchment slope to soil water N and C concentrations in riparian zones; Implications for riparian buffer." Canadian Journal of Forest Research 38.1 (2008): 16-30


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