Biogeochemistry

, Volume 26, Issue 3, pp 163–188

The biogeochemistry of a north-temperate grassland with native ungulates: Nitrogen dynamics in Yellowstone National Park

  • Douglas A. Frank
  • Richard S. Inouye
  • Nancy Huntly
  • G. Wayn Minshall
  • Jay E. Anderson
Article

DOI: 10.1007/BF00002905

Cite this article as:
Frank, D.A., Inouye, R.S., Huntly, N. et al. Biogeochemistry (1994) 26: 163. doi:10.1007/BF00002905

Abstract

Nutrient dynamics of large grassland ecosystems possessing abundant migratory grazers are poorly understood. We examined N cycling on the northern winter range of Yellowstone National Park, home for large herds of free-roaming elk (Cervus elaphus) and bison (Bison bison). Plant and soil N, net N mineralization, and the deposition of ungulate fecal-N were measured at five sites, a ridgetop, mid-slope bench, steep slope, valley-bottom bench, and riparian area, within a watershed from May, 1991 to April, 1992.

Results indicated similarities between biogeochemical properties of Yellowstone grassland and other grassland ecosystems: (1) landscape position and soil water affected nutrient dynamics, (2) annual mineralization was positively related to soil N content, and (3) the proportion of soil N mineralized during the year was negatively related to soil C/N.

Grazers were a particularly important component of the N budget of this grassland. Estimated rates of N flow from ungulates to the soil ranged from 8.1 to 45.6 kg/ha/yr at the sites (average = 27.0 kg/ha/yr), approximately 4.5 times the amount of N in senescent plants. Rates of nitrogen mineralization for Yellowstone northern range grassland were higher than those measured in other temperate grassland ecosystems, possibly due to grazers promoting N cycling in Yellowstone.

Keywords

grasslands nitrogen cycling herbivory Yellowstone National Park 

Copyright information

© Kluwer Academic Publishers 1994

Authors and Affiliations

  • Douglas A. Frank
    • 1
  • Richard S. Inouye
    • 1
  • Nancy Huntly
    • 1
  • G. Wayn Minshall
    • 1
  • Jay E. Anderson
    • 1
  1. 1.Center for Ecological Research and EducationIdaho State UniversityPocatello
  2. 2.Biological Research Labs, Syracuse UniversitySyracuse

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