, Volume 10, Issue 2, pp 226-238

The Effects of Adjacent Land Use on Nitrogen Dynamics at Forest Edges in Northern Idaho

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Abstract

The effects of immediately adjacent agricultural fertilization on nitrogen (N) at upland forest edges have not been previously studied. Our objective was to determine whether N from fertilized agriculture enters northern Idaho forest edges and significantly impacts their N status. We stratified 27 forest edge sampling sites by the N fertilization history of the adjacent land: current, historical, and never. We measured N stable isotopes (δ15N), N concentration (%N), and carbon-to-nitrogen (C/N) ratios of conifer tree and deciduous shrub foliage, shrub roots, and bulk soil, as well as soil available N. Conifer foliage δ15N and %N, shrub root δ15N, and bulk soil N were greater and soil C/N ratios lower (P < 0.05) at forest edges than interiors, regardless of adjacent fertilization history. For shrub foliage and bulk soil δ15N, shrub root %N and C/N ratios, and soil nitrate, significant edge–interior differences were limited to forests bordering lands that had been fertilized currently or historically. Foliage and soil δ15N were most enriched at forest edges bordering currently fertilized agriculture, suggesting that these forests are receiving N fertilizer inputs. Shrub root %N was greater at forest edges bordering currently fertilized agriculture than at those bordering grasslands that had never been fertilized (P = 0.01). Elevated N at forest edges may increase vegetation growth, as well as susceptibility to disease and insects. The higher N we found at forest edges bordering agriculture may also be found elsewhere, given similar agricultural practices in other regions and the prevalence of forest fragmentation.