Impacts of the exotic, nitrogen-fixing black locust (Robinia pseudoacacia) on nitrogen-cycling in a pine–oak ecosystem
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We investigated the influence of the exotic nitrogen-fixing black locust (Robinia pseudoacacia) on nitrogen cycling in a pitch pine (Pinus rigida) −scrub oak (Quercus ilicifolia, Q. prinoides) ecosystem. Within paired pine-oak and adjacent black locust stands that were the result of a 20-35 year-old invasion, we evaluated soil nutrient contents, soil nitrogen transformation rates, and annual litterfall biomass and nitrogen concentrations. In the A horizon, black locust soils had 1.3-3.2 times greater nitrogen concentration relative to soils within pine-oak stands. Black locust soils also had elevated levels of P and Ca, net nitrification rates and total net N-mineralization rates. Net nitrification rates were 25-120 times greater in black locust than in pine-oak stands. Elevated net N-mineralization rates in black locust stands were associated with an abundance of high nitrogen, low lignin leaf litter, with 86 kg N ha–1 yr–1 in leaf litter returned compared with 19 kg N ha–1 yr–1 in pine-oak stands. This difference resulted from a two-fold greater litterfall mass combined with increased litter nitrogen concentration in black locust stands (1.1% and 2.6% N for scrub oak and black locust litter, respectively). Thus, black locust supplements soil nitrogen pools, increases nitrogen return in litterfall, and enhances soil nitrogen mineralization rates when it invades nutrient poor, pine-oak ecosystems.
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