Plant and Soil

, Volume 128, Issue 1, pp 67-74

First online:

The nitrogen status of Austrian forest ecosystems as influenced by atmospheric deposition, biomass harvesting and lateral organomass exchange

  • Gerhard GlatzelAffiliated withInstitut für Forstökologie, Universität für Bodenkultur

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Measurements of the deposition rates of atmospheric trace constituents to forest ecosystems in Austria have shown that the deposition of plant utilizable nitrogen compounds is in the range from 12 kg N to more than 30 kg N ha-1 a-1. Locally, even higher deposition rates are encountered as a consequence of point sources or special deposition mechanisms such as fog interception, hoar frost formation, and accumulation in snow drifts. In order to place these values into perspective, they are compared with the nitrogen demand of past and present forest land use and with natural processes of nitrogen depletion and accumulation in forest ecosystems. During wind erosion of forest litter, woody material with a wide C/N-ratio remains on the windward side of ridges, while nutrient-rich material with a narrow C/N-ratio is deposited on the leeward side. As a result, total nitrogen storage in the forest soil as well as overall C/N-ratios change dramatically along a transect over a ridge, thus indicating a strong influence of litter C/N ratio on nitrogen retention in the forest soil. A study of nitrogen stores in the soil of beech ecosystems of the same yield class in the Vienna Woods showed a significant correlation of total N-content with base saturation. These results suggest that nitrogen storage capacity of forest soils may be managed by liming and tree species selection. As knowledge is still meagre, a special study on factors which determine nitrogen storage in forest soils is proposed within the FERN-programme.

Key words

C/N-ratio excess nitrogen nitrogen import nitrogen losses nitrogen saturation soil nitrogen