, Volume 296, Issue 1-2, pp 125-135

Response of soil respiration to simulated N deposition in a disturbed and a rehabilitated tropical forest in southern China

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Responses of soil respiration (CO2 emission) to simulated N deposition were studied in a disturbed (reforested forest with previous understory and litter harvesting) and a rehabilitated (reforested forest with no understory and litter harvesting) tropical forest in southern China from October 2005 to September 2006. The objectives of the study were to test the following hypotheses: (1) soil respiration is higher in rehabilitated forest than in disturbed forest; (2) soil respiration in both rehabilitated and disturbed tropical forests is stimulated by N additions; and (3) soil respiration is more sensitive to N addition in disturbed forest than in rehabilitated forest due to relatively low soil nutrient status in the former, resulting from different previous human disturbance. Static chamber and gas chromatography techniques were employed to quantify the soil respiration, following different N treatments (Control, no N addition; Low-N, 5 g N m−2 year−1; Medium-N, 10 g N m−2 year−1), which had been applied continuously for 26 months before the respiration measurement. Results showed that soil respiration exhibited a strong seasonal pattern, with the highest rates observed in the hot and wet growing season (April–September) and the lowest rates in winter (December–February) in both rehabilitated and disturbed forests. Soil respiration rates exhibited significant positive exponential relationship with soil temperature and significant positive linear relationship with soil moisture. Soil respiration was also significantly higher in the rehabilitated forest than in the disturbed forest. Annual mean soil respiration rate in the rehabilitated forest was 20% lower in low-N plots (71 ± 4 mg CO2-C m−2 h−1) and 10% lower in medium-N plots (80 ± 4 mg CO2-C m−2 h−1) than in the control plots (89 ± 5 mg CO2-C m−2 h−1), and the differences between the control and low-N or medium-N treatments were statistically significant. In disturbed forest, annual mean soil respiration rate was 5% lower in low-N plots (63 ± 3 mg CO2-C m−2 h−1) and 8% lower in medium-N plots (61 ± 3 mg CO2-C m−2 h−1) than in the control plots (66 ± 4 mg CO2-C m−2 h−1), but the differences among treatments were not significant. The depressed effects of experimental N deposition occurred mostly in the hot and wet growing season. Our results suggest that response of soil respiration to elevated N deposition in the reforested tropical forests may vary depending on the status of human disturbance.

Responsible Editor: Hans Lambers.