Nitrogen turnover in the leaf litter and fine roots of sugar maple

TitleNitrogen turnover in the leaf litter and fine roots of sugar maple
Publication TypeJournal Article
Year of Publication2010
AuthorsPregitzer KS, Zak DR, Talhelm AF, Burton AJames, Eikenberry JR
Pagination3456 - 3462
Date Published12/2010

In order to better understand the nitrogen (N) cycle, a pulse of 15NO3− was applied in 1998 to a sugar maple (Acer saccharum) dominated northern hardwood forest receiving long-term (1994–2008) simulated atmospheric N deposition. Sugar maple leaf litter and live fine-root 15N were quantified for four years prior to labeling and for 11 subsequent years. Continuous sampling of 15N following addition of the tracer enabled calculation of leaf litter and fine-root N pool turnover utilizing an exponential decay function. Fine-root 15N recovery peaked at 3.7% ± 1.7% the year the tracer was applied, while leaf litter 15N recovery peaked in the two years following tracer application at 8%. These results suggest shoots are primarily constructed from N taken up in previous years, while fine roots are constructed from new N. The residence time of N was 6.5 years in leaf litter and 3.1 years in fine roots. The longer residence time and higher recovery rate are evidence that leaves were a stronger sink for labeled N than fine roots, but the relatively short residence time of tracer N in both pools suggests that there is not tight intra-ecosystem cycling of N in this mature forest.