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Response of canopy nitrogen uptake to a rapid decrease in bulk nitrate deposition in two eastern Canadian boreal forests

Abstract

A few studies have reported a recent and rapid decline in NO3 deposition in eastern North America. Whether this trend can be observed at remote boreal sites with low rates of N deposition and how it could impact canopy uptake (CU) of N remain unknown. Here we report trends between 1997/1999 and 2012 for precipitation, throughfall N deposition as well as inorganic N CU for two boreal forest sites of Quebec, Canada, with contrasted N deposition rates and tree species composition. NO3 bulk deposition declined by approximately 50 % at both sites over the studied period while no change was observed for NH4 +. As a result, the contribution of NH4 + to inorganic N deposition changed from ~33 % to more than 50 % during the study period. On average, 52–59 % of N deposition was intercepted by the canopy, the retention being higher for NH4 + (60–67 %) than for NO3 (45–54 %). The decrease in NO3 bulk deposition and the increase in the NH4 +:NO3 ratio had important impacts on N–canopy interactions. The contribution of NH4 + CU to that of total inorganic N CU increased at both sites but the trend was significant only at Tirasse (lowest N deposition). At this site, absolute NO3 CU significantly decreased (as did total N CU) during the study period, a consequence of the strong relationship (r 2 = 0.88) between NO3 bulk deposition and NO3 CU. Our data suggest that N interactions with forest canopies may change rapidly with changes in N deposition as well as with tree species composition.

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Acknowledgments

D. H. and L. D. conceived and designed the experiments. C. M. analyzed the data. D. H. and C. M. wrote the manuscript; L. D. provided editorial advice.

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Correspondence to C. Marty.

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Communicated by Hormoz BassiriRad.

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Houle, D., Marty, C. & Duchesne, L. Response of canopy nitrogen uptake to a rapid decrease in bulk nitrate deposition in two eastern Canadian boreal forests. Oecologia 177, 29–37 (2015). https://doi.org/10.1007/s00442-014-3118-0

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Keywords

  • Nitrogen deposition
  • Canopy uptake
  • Boreal forest
  • Stream water
  • Throughfall