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Clearcut harvesting effects on soil and creek inorganic nitrogen in high elevation forests of southern interior British Columbia

Hope, G. D. 2009. Canadian Journal of Soil Science 89:35- 44


Responses of both soil and stream inorganic nitrogen (N) after operational clearcut harvesting were explored in two high elevation British Columbia Engelmann spruce Subalpine fir (ESSF) forests. At one study site, net N mineralization was measured between 1 and 11 yr after harvest. At a second site, for 3 yr after harvesting, available soil ammonium and nitrate were measured using ion exchange resins, and drainage losses of N were estimated using tension lysimeters and soil water balance models. Stream water N concentrations were also measured in one unlogged, and two logged watersheds at the second study area for 12 yr, both pre- and post-clearcut harvesting. Growing season as well as over-winter increases in post-harvest soil nitrate were detected after 3 yr, and the increases were apparent for up to 11 yr. Seasonal losses of N in drainage were greater in clearcut soils than in the forest soils in year 2 for ammonium and in years 2 and 3 for nitrate. A high proportion of the N was lost in drainage during snowmelt. Stream water ammonium in all three streams and nitrate in the unlogged and one harvested creek remained at or below the detection level. In the third creek, the frequency of detection and concentrations of nitrate peaked 2 to 3 yr after 30 to 57% of the watershed was harvested. The annual peak in NO3-N concentrations occurred immediately before the snowmeltdriven streamflow peak. Drainage losses and stream N fluxes were both small, relative to the total soil N content.

Key Words

Nitrogen, N mineralization, nitrate, harvesting, leaching, stream N, snowmelt