, Volume 16, Issue 7, pp 1310–1324 | Cite as

Effects of Long-Term Nitrogen Addition and Atmospheric Nitrogen Deposition on Carbon Accumulation in Picea sitchensis Plantations

  • Tiziana GentilescaEmail author
  • Massimo Vieno
  • Michael P. Perks
  • Marco Borghetti
  • Maurizio Mencuccini


This study aimed to assess the combined effects of long-term nitrogen (N) supply and nitrogen deposition (N dep) on carbon (C) accumulation within Sitka spruce [Picea sitchensis (Bong.) Carr.] plantations in Scotland. Six study sites established from 1970 to 1982 were periodically N-fertilized, monitored over time and commonly surveyed in 2010. Soil, aboveground biomass, and ground vegetation C stock changes were analyzed; aboveground C stocks were correlated with total additional N experienced at each site, that is, the sum of experimental N supply (N add) and site-specific accumulated N dep from 1900 to 2010. Results showed a positive N effect on aboveground tree C stock and no decline in tree growth was observed either during fertilization or after the latest N addition. The amount of C in litter was significantly higher in experimentally N-treated plots, whereas the amount of C in understory vegetation was higher in control plots. Pooling all the compartments (that is, understory vegetation, litter, soil, and tree biomass) the total ecosystem C content was estimated for each site, and at most sites a higher C stock was estimated for N-treated plots. Differences in aboveground C accumulation rates between treated and control plots were lower at sites with high levels of accumulated N dep. Our results indicate that site-specific accumulated N dep should be considered to understand tree growth responses to N fertilization.


anthropogenic nitrogen deposition carbon stock Sitka spruce soil fertilization tree growth urea 



Long-term stewardship of these fertilization trials is ensured by Forestry Commission agencies. T.G. was supported by a MIUR fellowship in the Ph.D. program “Crop Systems, Forestry and Environmental Sciences” (University of Basilicata, Italy). M.M. acknowledges the contribution of NERC Grant NE/G00725X/1 and M.B. the MIUR-FISR Carbo-Italy Project. We thank S. Goss, C. Murray, C Smart, and A. MacLeod for precious help in field work; D. Stevenson and T. Dore for technical support in N dep simulation; L. Nagy for advice on soil sampling; G. Walker, C. McEvoy, and A. MacLeod for technical assistance; J. Morris and M.R. Guerrieri for scientific support. The authors thank the subject-matter editor, Gary Lovett, and two anonymous referees for their constructive comments that contributed to improve the paper.


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Copyright information

© Springer Science+Business Media New York 2013

Authors and Affiliations

  • Tiziana Gentilesca
    • 1
    Email author
  • Massimo Vieno
    • 2
    • 4
  • Michael P. Perks
    • 3
  • Marco Borghetti
    • 1
  • Maurizio Mencuccini
    • 2
    • 5
  1. 1.School of Agricultural, Forestry, Food and Environmental SciencesPotenzaItaly
  2. 2.School of GeoSciencesUniversity of EdinburghEdinburghUK
  3. 3.Forest ResearchNorthern Research StationEdinburghUK
  4. 4.Centre for Ecology and Hydrology (CEH) Bush EstateNERCEdinburghUK
  5. 5.ICREA at CREAFUniversidad Autonoma de BarcelonaBellaterraSpain

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