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Carbon and Nitrogen Dynamics of Boreal Jack Pine Stands With and Without a Green Alder Understory

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We compared the species composition, structure and selected components of the carbon (C) and nitrogen (N) budgets of similar-aged, mature boreal jack pine (Pinus banksiana Lamb.) forests with and without green alder [Alnus crispa (Ait.) Pursh.] in two different boreal environments. The C and N content of the overstory biomass components (for example, stem, branch, and foliage), total vegetation, forest floor, and mineral soil were greater (P= 0.05 to P= 0.10) for jack pine with alder (JPA) stands than for jack pine without alder (JP) stands at both study areas. Jack pine foliage N isotopic discrimination (δ15N) and annual litterfall N content were significantly greater (P < 0.05) in the JPA than the JP stands at both study areas, suggesting that alder was fixing N and that N availability was greater in the JPA than the JP stands. The greater leaf area index (LAI) and overstory C accumulation in the JPA than the JP stands (P < 0.05) is likely because of the greater N availability in the JPA stands, but the effect of soil texture discontinuity on water availability in the JPA stands can not be dismissed. Percent ground cover by feathermoss varied among the jack pine communities and was positively correlated with overstory LAI (r 2= 0.83, P< 0.05). One index of N-use efficiency (NUE), defined as aboveground net primary productivity (ANPP) per litterfall N, was significantly greater (P < 0.05) for the JP than the JPA stands, but a second index of NUE, ANPP/N uptake, did not differ between the two jack pine communities. Jack pine trees growing without alder produced more organic matter per unit of N, but percent N retranslocation from senescing foliage and N mean residence time in the overstory did not differ between the JPA and the JP stands. A conceptual model is presented that illustrates the potential influence of alder on the species composition, structure, and function of boreal jack pine forests.

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Received 6 January 1998; accepted 15 April 1998.

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Vogel, J., Gower, S. Carbon and Nitrogen Dynamics of Boreal Jack Pine Stands With and Without a Green Alder Understory. Ecosystems 1, 386–400 (1998).

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