, Volume 26, Issue 6, pp 1683–1702 | Cite as

Long-term tracing of whole catchment 15N additions in a mountain spruce forest: measurements and simulations with the TRACE model

  • Kim Krause
  • Isabelle Providoli
  • William S. Currie
  • Harald Bugmann
  • Patrick Schleppi
Original Paper


Despite numerous studies on nitrogen (N) cycling in forest ecosystems, many uncertainties remain, particularly regarding long-term N accumulation in the soil. Models validated against tracer isotopic data from field labeling experiments provide a potential tool to better understand and simulate C and N interactions over multiple decades. In this study, we describe the adaptation of the dynamic process-based model TRACE to a new site, Alptal, where long-term N-addition and 15N-tracer experiments provide unique datasets for testing the model. We describe model parameterization for this spruce forest, and then test the model with 9- and 14-year time series of 15N-tracer recovery from control and N-amended catchments, respectively. Finally, we use the model to project the fate of ecosystem N accumulation over the next 70 years. Field 15N recovery data show that the major sink for N deposition is the soil. On the control plot, tracer recovery in the soil increased from 32 % in the second year to 60 % in the ninth year following tracer addition, whereas on the N-saturated plot, soil recovery stayed almost constant from 63 % in the third year to 61 % in the twelfth year. Recovery in tree biomass increased over the decadal time scale in both treatments, to ca. 10 % over 9 years on the control plot and ca. 13 % over 14 years on the N-amended plot. We then used these time series to validate TRACE, showing that the adaptation and calibration procedure for the Alptal site was successful. Model-data comparison identified that the spreading method of 15N tracers needs to be considered when interpreting recovery results from labeling studies. Furthermore, the ground vegetation layer was recognized to play an important role in controlling the rate at which deposited N enters soil pools. Our 70-year model simulation into the future underpinned by a Monte-Carlo sensitivity analysis, suggests that the soil is able to immobilize a constant fraction of 70 and 77 % of deposited N for the treated and the control plot, respectively. Further, the model showed that the simulated increased N deposition resulted in a relatively small elevated C sequestration in aggrading wood with an N use efficiency of approximately 7 kg C per kg N added.


N cycling 15N tracer Simulation model Mountain forest Norway spruce N deposition 


  1. Aber JD (1992) Nitrogen cycling and nitrogen saturation in temperate forest ecosystems. Trends Ecol Evol 7:220–224PubMedCrossRefGoogle Scholar
  2. Aber JD, Driscoll CT (1997) Effects of land use, climate variation, and N deposition on N cycling and C storage in northern hardwood forests. Global Biogeochem Cycles 11:639–648CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  3. Aber JD, Federer CA (1992) A generalized, lumped-parameter model of photosynthesis, evapotranspiration and net primary production in temperate and boreal forest ecosystems. Oecologia 92:463–474CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  4. Aber JD, Nadelhoffer KJ, Steudler P, Melillo JM (1989) Nitrogen saturation in northern forest ecosystems. Bioscience 39:378–386CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  5. Aber JD, Magill A, Boone R, Melillo JM, Steudler P, Bowden R (1993) Plant and soil responses to chronic nitrogen additions at the Harvard Forest, Massachusetts. Ecol Appl 3:156–166CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  6. Aber JD, Ollinger SV, Driscoll CT (1997) Modeling nitrogen saturation in forest ecosystems in response to land use and atmospheric deposition. Ecol Model 101:61–78CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  7. Aber JD, McDowell W, Nadelhoffer K, Magill A, Berntson G, Kamakea M, McNulty S, Currie W, Rustad L, Fernandez I (1998) Nitrogen saturation in temperate forest ecosystems—hypotheses revisited. Bioscience 48:921–934CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  8. Bates JW (1992) Mineral nutrient acquisition and retention by bryophytes. J Bryol 17:223–240Google Scholar
  9. Borken W, Matzner E (2004) Nitrate leaching in forest soils: an analysis of long-term monitoring sites in Germany. J Plant Nutr Soil Sci 167:277–283CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  10. Buchmann N, Schulze ED, Gebauer G (1995) 15N-ammonium and 15N-nitrate uptake of a 15-year-old Picea abies plantation. Oecologia 102:361–370CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  11. Buchmann N, Gebauer G, Schulze ED (1996) Partitioning of 15N-labeled ammonium and nitrate among soil, litter, below- and above-ground biomass of trees and understory in a 15-year-old Picea abies plantation. Biogeochemistry 33:1–23CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  12. Butterbach-Bahl K, Gasche R, Breuer L, Papen H (1997) Fluxes of NO and N2O from temperate forest soils: impact of forest type, N deposition and of liming on the NO and N2O emissions. Nutr Cycl Agroecosyst 48:79–90CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  13. Currie WS, Aber JD (1997) Modeling leaching as a decomposition process in humid montane forests. Ecology 78:1844–1860CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  14. Currie WS, Nadelhoffer KJ (1999) Dynamic redistribution of isotopically labeled cohorts of nitrogen inputs in two temperate forests. Ecosystems 2:4–18CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  15. Currie WS, Aber JD, Driscoll CT (1999a) Leaching of nutrient cations from the forest floor: effects of nitrogen saturation in two long-term manipulations. Can J For Res 29:609–620CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  16. Currie WS, Nadelhoffer KJ, Aber JD (1999b) Soil detrital processes controlling the movement of 15N tracers to forest vegetation. Ecol Appl 9:87–102Google Scholar
  17. Currie WS, Nadelhoffer KJ, Aber JD (2004) Redistributions of 15N highlight turnover and replenishment of mineral soil organic N as a long-term control on forest C balance. For Ecol Manag 196:109–127CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  18. Currie W, Helmers D, Wessel WW (2009) A user guide for the TRACE model. Version 4.4.4, update 3.
  19. De Vries W, Reinds GJ, Gundersen P, Sterba H (2006) The impact of nitrogen deposition on carbon sequestration in European forests and forest soils. Glob Change Biol 12:1151–1173CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  20. De Vries W, Solberg S, Dobbertin M, Sterba H, Laubhann D, van Oijen M, Evans C, Gundersen P, Kros J, Wamelink GWW, Reinds GJ, Sutton MA (2009) The impact of nitrogen deposition on carbon sequestration by European forests and heathlands. For Ecol Manag 258:1814–1823Google Scholar
  21. Dise NB, Wright RF (1995) Nitrogen leaching from European forests in relation to nitrogen deposition. For Ecol Manag 71:153–161CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  22. Fangmeier A, Hadwiger-Fangmeier A, Vandereerden L, Jager HJ (1994) Effects of atmospheric ammonia on vegetation—a review. Environ Pollut 86:43–82PubMedCrossRefGoogle Scholar
  23. Fenn ME, Poth MA, Aber JD, Baron JS, Bormann BT, Johnson DW, Lemly AD, McNulty SG, Ryan DE, Stottlemyer R (1998) Nitrogen excess in North American ecosystems: predisposing factors, ecosystem responses, and management strategies. Ecol Appl 8:706–733CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  24. Galloway JN, Aber JD, Erisman JW, Seitzinger SP, Howarth RW, Cowling EB, Cosby BJ (2003) The nitrogen cascade. Bioscience 53:341–356CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  25. Gimmi U, Wolf A, Bürgi M, Scherstjanoi M, Bugmann H (2009) Quantifying disturbance effects on vegetation carbon pools in mountain forests based on historical data. Reg Environ Change 9:121–130CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  26. Templer PH, Mack MC, Chapin III FS, Christenson LM, Compton JE, Crook H, Currie W, Curtis C, Dail DB, Antonio CD, Emmett B, Epstein H, Goodale CL, P. G, Hobbie SE, Holland K, Hopper DU, Hungate BA, Kappel-Schmidt I, Lamontagne S, Nadelhoffer K, Osenberg CW, Perakis S, Schleppi P, Schimel JP, Sommerkorn M, Spoelstra J, Tietema A, Wessel WW, Zack DR (2012) Sinks for nitrogen inputs in terrestrial ecosystems: A meta-analyses of enriched 15N field tracer studies. Ecology (in press)Google Scholar
  27. Gruber N, Galloway JN (2008) An Earth-system perspective of the global nitrogen cycle. Nature 451:293–296PubMedCrossRefGoogle Scholar
  28. Gundersen P, Callesen I, de Vries W (1998) Nitrate leaching in forest ecosystems is related to forest floor C/N ratios. Environ Pollut 102:403–407CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  29. Gundersen P, Schmidt IK, Raulund-Rasmussen K (2006) Leaching of nitrate from temperate forests—effects of air pollution and forest management. Environ Rev 14:1–57CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  30. Hagedorn F, Mohn J, Schleppi P, Flühler H (1999) The role of rapid flow paths for nitrogen transformation in a forest soil: a field study with micro suction cups. Soil Sci Soc Am J 63:1915–1923CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  31. Hagedorn F, Schleppi P, Bucher J, Flühler H (2001) Retention and leaching of elevated N deposition in a forest ecosystem with Gleysols. Water Air Soil Pollut 129:119–142CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  32. Heijmans MMPD, Klees H, Visser Wd, Berendse F (2002) Effects of increased nitrogen deposition on the distribution of 15N-labeled nitrogen between sphagnum and vascular plants. Ecosystems 5:500–508Google Scholar
  33. Högberg P, Fan HB, Quist M, Binkley D, Tamm CO (2006) Tree growth and soil acidification in response to 30 years of experimental nitrogen loading on boreal forest. Glob Change Biol 12:489–499CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  34. Hulber K, Dirnbock T, Kleinbauer I, Willner W, Dullinger S, Karrer G, Mirtl M (2008) Long-term impacts of nitrogen and sulphur deposition on forest floor vegetation in the northern limestone Alps, Austria. Appl Veg Sci 11:395–404CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  35. Hyvonen R, Persson T, Andersson S, Olsson B, Ågren GI, Linder S (2008) Impact of long-term nitrogen addition on carbon stocks in trees and soils in northern Europe. Biogeochemistry 89:121–137CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  36. Ilari L (1994) Nitrogen uptake of Norway spruce (Picea abies Karst.) seedlings from simulated wet deposition. For Ecol Manag 63:87–96Google Scholar
  37. IPCC (2001) Climate change 2001: synthesis report. Cambridge University Press, CambridgeGoogle Scholar
  38. Jussy JH, Colin-Belgrand M, Dambrine E, Ranger J, Zeller B, Bienaime S (2004) N deposition, N transformation and N leaching in acid forest soils. Biogeochemistry 69:241–262CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  39. Kronzucker HJ, Siddiqi MY, Glass ADM (1997) Conifer root discrimination against soil nitrate and the ecology of forest succession. Nature 385:59–61CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  40. Lamontagne S, Schiff SL, Elgood RJ (2000) Recovery of 15N-labelled nitrate applied to a small upland boreal forest catchment. Can J For Res 30:1165–1177Google Scholar
  41. Larocque GR, Bhatti JS, Boutin R, Chertov O (2008) Uncertainty analysis in carbon cycle models of forest ecosystems: research needs and development of a theoretical framework to estimate error propagation. Ecol Model 219:400–412CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  42. Likens GE, Wright RF, Galloway JN, Butler TJ (1979) Acid rain. Sci Am 241:43–51CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  43. Magill AH, Aber JD, Hendricks JJ, Bowden RD, Melillo JM, Steudler PA (1997) Biogeochemical response of forest ecosystems to simulated chronic nitrogen deposition. Ecol Appl 7:402–415CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  44. Magill AH, Aber JD, Currie WS, Nadelhoffer KJ, Martin ME, McDowell WH, Melillo JM, Steudler P (2004) Ecosystem response to 15 years of chronic nitrogen additions at the Harvard Forest LTER, Massachusetts, USA. For Ecol Manag 196:7–28CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  45. McNulty SG, Boggs JL (2010) A conceptual framework: redefining forest soil’s critical acid loads under a changing climate. Environ Pollut 158:2053–2058PubMedCrossRefGoogle Scholar
  46. Meure CM, Etheridge D, Trudinger C, Steele P, Langenfelds R, van Ommen T, Smith A, Elkins J (2006) Law Dome CO2, CH4 and N2O ice core records extended to 2000 years BP. Geophys Res Lett 33:4Google Scholar
  47. Mohn J, Schurmann A, Hagedorn F, Schleppi P, Bachofen R (2000) Increased rates of denitrification in nitrogen-treated forest soils. For Ecol Manag 137:113–119CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  48. Morier I, Guenat C, Siegwolf R, Vedy JC, Schleppi P (2008) Dynamics of atmospheric nitrogen deposition in a temperate calcareous forest soil. J Environ Qual 37:2012–2021PubMedCrossRefGoogle Scholar
  49. Nadelhoffer KJ, Downs MR, Fry B, Aber JD, Magill AH, Melillo JM (1995) The fate of 15N-labelled nitrate additions to a northern hardwood forest in eastern Maine, USA. Oecologia 103:292–301CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  50. Nadelhoffer KJ, Emmett BA, Gundersen P, Kjonaas OJ, Koopmans CJ, Schleppi P, Tietema A, Wright RF (1999) Nitrogen deposition makes a minor contribution to carbon sequestration in temperate forests. Nature 398:145–148CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  51. Nadelhoffer KJ, Colman BP, Currie WS, Magill A, Aber JD (2004) Decadal-scale fates of 15N tracers added to oak and pine stands under ambient and elevated N inputs at the Harvard Forest (USA). For Ecol Manag 196:89–107CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  52. Nilson T (1971) A theoretical analysis of the frequency of gaps in plant stands. Agr Meteorol 8:25–38CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  53. Perakis SS, Compton JE, Hedin LO (2005) Nitrogen retention across a gradient of 15N additions to an unpolluted temperate forest soil in Chile. Ecology 86:96–105CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  54. Phoenix GK, Hicks WK, Cinderby S, Kuylenstierna JCI, Stock WD, Dentener FJ, Giller KE, Austin AT, Lefroy RDB, Gimeno BS, Ashmore MR, Ineson P (2006) Atmospheric nitrogen deposition in world biodiversity hotspots: the need for a greater global perspective in assessing N deposition impacts. Glob Change Biol 12:470–476CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  55. Priha O, Smolander A (1995) Nitrification, denitrification and microbial biomass N in soil from 2 N-fertilized and limed Norway spruce forests. Soil Biol Biochem 27:305–310CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  56. Providoli I, Bugmann H, Siegwolf R, Buchmann N, Schleppi P (2005) Flow of deposited inorganic N in two Gleysol-dominated mountain catchments traced with 15NO3 and 15NH4. Biogeochemistry 76:453–475CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  57. Providoli I, Bugmann H, Siegwolf R, Buchmann N, Schleppi P (2006) Pathways and dynamics of 15NO3 and 15NH4 applied in a mountain Picea abies forest and in a nearby meadow in central Switzerland. Soil Biol Biochem 38:1645–1657CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  58. Schleppi P, Muller N, Feyen H, Papritz A, Bucher JB, Flühler H (1998) Nitrogen budgets of two small experimental forested catchments at Alptal, Switzerland. For Ecol Manag 101:177–185CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  59. Schleppi P, Bucher-Wallin L, Siegwolf R, Saurer M, Muller N, Bucher JB (1999a) Simulation of increased nitrogen deposition to a montane forest ecosystem: Partitioning of the added 15N. Water Air Soil Pollut 116:129–134CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  60. Schleppi P, Muller N, Edwards PJ, Bucher JB (1999b) Three years of increased nitrogen deposition do not affect the vegetation of a montane forest ecosystem. Phyton Ann Rei Bot A 39:197–204Google Scholar
  61. Schleppi P, Hagedorn F, Providoli I (2004) Nitrate leaching from a mountain forest ecosystem with gleysols subjected to experimentally increased N deposition. Water Air Soil Pollut Focus 4:453–467CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  62. Sievering H (1999) Nitrogen deposition and carbon sequestration. Nature 400:629–630CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  63. Sievering H, Fernandez I, Lee J, Hom J, Rustad L (2000) Forest canopy uptake of atmospheric nitrogen deposition at eastern U.S. conifer sites: carbon storage implications? Global Biogeochem Cycle 14:1153–1159CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  64. Templer PH, Lovett G, Weathers K, Findlay S, Dawson TE (2005) Influence of tree species on forest nitrogen retention in the Catskill Mountains, New York, USA. Ecosystems 8:1–16CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  65. Throop HL, Lerdau MT (2004) Effects of nitrogen deposition on insect herbivory: implications for community and ecosystem processes. Ecosystems 7:109–133CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  66. Tietema A, Emmett BA, Gundersen P, Kjønaas OJ, Koopmans CJ (1998) The fate of 15N-labelled nitrogen deposition in coniferous forest ecosystems. For Ecol Manag 101:19–27CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  67. Wessel WW, Tietema A (1992) Calculating gross N transformation rates of 15N pool dilution experiments with acid forest litter—analytical and numerical approaches. Soil Biol Biochem 24:931–942CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  68. Woodin S, Press MC, Lee JA (1985) Nitrate reductase-activity in Sphagnum fuscum in relation to wet deposition of nitrate from the atmosphere. New Phytol 99:381–388CrossRefGoogle Scholar

Copyright information

© Springer-Verlag 2012

Authors and Affiliations

  • Kim Krause
    • 1
    • 4
  • Isabelle Providoli
    • 2
  • William S. Currie
    • 3
  • Harald Bugmann
    • 4
  • Patrick Schleppi
    • 1
  1. 1.Swiss Fed. Inst. for Forest Snow and Landscape Research (WSL)BirmensdorfSwitzerland
  2. 2.Centre for Development and EnvironmentUniversity of BernBernSwitzerland
  3. 3.School of Natural Resources and EnvironmentUniversity of MichiganAnn ArborUSA
  4. 4.Forest Ecology, Swiss Fed. Inst. of Technology (ETH)ZurichSwitzerland

Personalised recommendations