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Soil response to a 3-year increase in temperature and nitrogen deposition measured in a mature boreal forest using ion-exchange membranes

Orangeville, L., D. Houle, B. Côté and L. Duchesne. 2014. Environmental Monitoring and Assessment


The projected increase in atmospheric N deposition and air/soil temperature will likely affect soil nutrient dynamics in boreal ecosystems. The potential effects of these changes on soil ion fluxes were studied in a mature balsam fir stand (Abies balsamea [L.] Mill) in Quebec, Canada that was subjected to 3 years of experimentally increased soil temperature ( 4 °C) and increased inorganic N concentration in artificial precipitation (three times the current N concentrations using NH4NO3). Soil element fluxes (NO3, NH4, PO4, K, Ca, Mg, SO4, Al, and Fe) in the organic and upper mineral horizons were monitored using buried ion-exchange membranes (PRS™ probes). While N additions did not affect soil element fluxes, 3 years of soil warming increased the cumulative fluxes of K, Mg, and SO4 in the forest floor by 43, 44, and 79 %, respectively, and Mg, SO4, and Al in the mineral horizon by 29, 66, and 23 %, respectively. We attribute these changes to increased rates of soil organic matter decomposition. Significant interactions of the heating treatment with time were observed for most elements although no clear seasonal patterns emerged. The increase in soil K and Mg in heated plots resulted in a significant but small K increase in balsam fir foliage while no change was observed for Mg. A 6 -15 % decrease in foliar Ca content with soil warming could be related to the increase in soil-available Al in heated plots, as Al can interfere with the root uptake of Ca.

Key Words

PRS™ probes Podzol Balsam fir Aluminum Soil warming Base cations Climate change