Forests are important terrestrial ecosystems, with particular nutrient cycling mechanisms to maintain structure and functions. Nitrogen is essential for forest growth and development, and commonly limited for the forest productivity. N cycles in forest ecosystems are frequently disturbed by intensive human activities. Based on a variety of research results, some potentially important human disturbances are discussed and their effects on forest ecosystems are reviewed. Precipitation is a considerable N input to forest ecosystems. However acid precipitation is detrimental to the ecosystems in the long run. Acidification causes remarkable reduction in forest productivity in the world, due to the harmful effect of acid on plant physiology and more importantly to the reduction in soil fertility by lowering mineralization and increasing N loss by runoff and leaching. The most important nutrient cycling mechanism in forest ecosystems is litterfall. Removal of trunks only for commercial use will not affect N cycle in forest ecosystems significantly, but attention on the intensity and rotation times of harvest should be paid. Clear-cutting should be prevented in forest harvesting. It deserves more attention that the change of environment after clear-cutting will affect the N cycling processes in forest ecosystems, which substantially influence soil fertility and forest productivity. Ammonification and nitrification processes are stimulated after harvesting, by which N is becoming more moveable. Unfortunately in the situation of no assimilation after clear-cutting, much of N will be lost out of the ecosystems and soil fertility will be diminished. The N pool in forest floor and underlying mineral soil is big, but forest productivity is generally low in natural conditions. Forest management is needed to meet the increasing demand for forest products. Optimization of stands structure is the most economic way to increase soil fertility and forest productivity. Mixed coniferous-broad leaved forest is recommended for plantation practice. Addition of fertilizer N effectively promotes forest productivity and may compensate for the N loss from the systems by harvesting.
This is a preview of subscription content, access via your institution.
Buy single article
Instant access to the full article PDF.
Tax calculation will be finalised during checkout.
Subscribe to journal
Immediate online access to all issues from 2019. Subscription will auto renew annually.
Tax calculation will be finalised during checkout.
Aber JD, Melillo JM, McClaugherty CA & Eshleman KN (1983) Potential sinks for mineralized nitrogen following disturbance in forest ecosystems, In: Hallberg R (ed) Environmental biogeochemistry. Ecol Bull (Stockholm) 35: 179–192
Bormann FH & Likens GE (1981) Pattern and process in a forested ecosystem. Springer-Verlag, New York
Briones MJI & Ineson P (1996) Decomposition of eucalyptus leaves in litter mixtures. Soil Biol Biochem 28: 1381–1388
Chen CY, Zhang JW, Deng SJ, Wang SL & Liao LP (1989) Effect of acid rain on forest ecosystems in Southwestern China. In: Article collections on acid rain study, pp 466–475, edited by China Environmental Science Society, China environmental science press 54
Cheng BR, Xu GS, Gen XY & Zhang GL (1987) The nutrient cycling in the Korean pine-broad-leaved forest of the Changbai mountains. Acta Pedologica Sinica 24(2): 160–169
Cheng BR, Xu GS, Gen XY & Zhang GL (1993) Nutrient input of throughfall in a pine-spruce-fir forest of Changbai mountain. Chin J Appl Ecol 4(4): 447–449
Cooke GW (1967) The control of soil fertility. Crosby Lockwood and Son Ltd
Feng ZW, Chen CY, Zhang JW, Zeng SY & Zhao JL (1988) A coniferous broad-leaved mixed plantation forest with higher productivity and ecological harmony in subtropical China – a case study on mixed plantation of Cunninghamia lanceolata and Michelia macclurei var. sublanea. Acta Phytoecologica et Geobotanica Sinica 21(3): 165–180
Li WG, Liu FD, Zhang CF & Zhang YX (1996a) A test of fertilizer dosage and proportion on Masson pine stand. Guizhou Forestry Science and Technology, 24(1): 29–32
Li WG, Liu FD, Zhang CF & Zhang YX (1996b) Effect of fertilization on soil fertility under young Masson pine plantations. Guizhou Forestry Science and Technology 24(4): 27–30
Li YQ, Chen DD, Xu QY, Dai ZD & Ye WD (1993) Effect of fertilizer use on a middle-aged eliottii pine plantation. 268-276 In: Forest and Soil, edited by The Profession Committee of Forest Soil. Beijing: China Science and Technology Press
Liao LP & Chen CY (1991) Effects of simulated acid rain on root growth of Cunninghamia lanceolata and Schima superba saplings planted in acidified soil. J Environ Sci (China) 3(2): 45–52
Liao LP, Chen CY, Zhang JW & Deng SJ (1995) Turnoverof fine roots in pure and mixed Cunninghamia lanceolata and Michelia macclurei var. sublanea forest, Chin J Appl Ecol 6(1): 7–10
Liao LP, Ineson P and Yang YH (1997) Decomposition of foliar litter in mixture I. A microcosm study. Chin J Appl Ecol 8(5): 459–464
Liao LP, Yang YJ, Deng SJ & Gao H (1998) Distribution, decomposition and nutrient return of fine-roots in pure Chinese fir and M. macclurei plantations and the mixture. Acta Ecologica Sinica. (In press)
Liu ZZ, Z hang LH, Ma CX & Xu Y (1995) Studies on turnover of nitrogen in the soils under two kinds of forests, Acta Ecologica Sinica 15(B): 61–67
Morrison IK (1984) Acid rain – A review of literature on acid deposition effects in forest ecosystems. Forestry abstracts 45(8): 483–506
Run HH (1994) Studies on nutrient cycling in three forest types in the hilly regions of southern Jiangshu Province. In: Long-term research on China's forest ecosystems, pp 104–111, edited by Department of Science and Technology, Ministry of Forestry, Northeast forestry University Press
Xiao SP (1998) A preliminary study on young Masson pine plantation. Guangxi Forestry Science 27(2): 95–97
Xu GS (1987) Nitrogen distribution and cycle in temperate forest ecosystem. Translated report on terrestrial ecology 1: 1–13
Xu GS, Zhang YH & Liu CP (1995a) Nutrient cycling in a Korean pine broad-leaved forest in the temperate zone. Acta Ecologica Sinica 15(B): 47–53
Xu GS, Zhang YH & Liu CP (1995b) Biological nutrient cycling in a Korean pine-spruce-fir forest stand in Changbai mountain. Acta Ecologica Sinica 15(B): 54–60
Zhang GH & Zhao DW (1989) Acid rain. Beijing: China Environmental Science Press (in Chinese)
Zhang JW, Chen CY, Deng SJ, Liao LP & Wang SL (1993) Effect of acid rain on forest growth, In: Study on the techniques of pollution prevention, pp 805–813, edited by China National Environmental Protection Bureau, Science Press, Beijing
Zhang YH, Xu GX & Liu CP (1995) Hydrochemical characteristics in spruce-fir forest ecosystems of Changbai mountain. Acta Ecologica Sinica 15(B): 41–46
About this article
Cite this article
Chen, G., Yu, K., Liao, L. et al. Effect of human activities on forest ecosystems: N cycle and soil fertility. Nutrient Cycling in Agroecosystems 57, 47–54 (2000). https://doi.org/10.1023/A:1009880708469
- forest ecosystem
- human activities
- N cycle
- soil fertility