Original Article


, Volume 6, Issue 7, pp 644-658

First online:

Pine Forest Floor Carbon Accumulation in Response to N and PK Additions: Bomb 14C Modelling and Respiration Studies

  • Oskar FranklinAffiliated withDepartment of Ecology and Environmental Research, Swedish University of Agricultural Sciences, Box 7072, S-750 07 Uppsala Email author 
  • , Peter HögbergAffiliated withDepartment of Forest Site Research, Swedish University of Agricultural Sciences, S-901 83 Umeå
  • , Alf EkbladAffiliated withDepartment of Natural Sciences, Örebro University, S-701 82 Örebro
  • , Göran I. ÅgrenAffiliated withDepartment of Ecology and Environmental Research, Swedish University of Agricultural Sciences, Box 7072, S-750 07 Uppsala

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The addition of nitrogen via deposition alters the carbon balance of temperate forest ecosystems by affecting both production and decomposition rates. The effects of 20 years of nitrogen (N) and phosphorus and potassium (PK) additions were studied in a 40-year-old pine stand in northern Sweden. Carbon fluxes of the forest floor were reconstructed using a combination of data on soil 14C, tree growth, and litter decomposition. N-only additions caused an increase in needle litterfall, whereas both N and PK additions reduced long-term decomposition rates. Soil respiration measurements showed a 40% reduction in soil respiration for treated compared to control plots. The average age of forest floor carbon was 17 years. Predictions of future soil carbon storage indicate an increase of around 100% in the next 100 years for the N plots and 200% for the NPK plots. As much as 70% of the increase in soil carbon was attributed to the decreased decomposition rate, whereas only 20% was attributable to increased litter production. A reduction in decomposition was observed at a rate of N addition of 30 kg C ha−1 y−1, which is not an uncommon rate of N deposition in central Europe. A model based on the continuous-quality decomposition theory was applied to interpret decomposer and substrate parameters. The most likely explanations for the decreased decomposition rate were a fertilizer-induced increase in decomposer efficiency (production-to-assimilation ratio), a more rapid rate of decrease in litter quality, and a decrease in decomposer basic growth rate.


carbon accumulation decomposition rate decomposition theory forest fertilization forest floor model nitrogen deposition soil respiration