Influence of Tree Species on Forest Nitrogen Retention in the Catskill Mountains, New York, USA
This study examines the effect of four tree species on nitrogen (N) retention within forested catchments of the Catskill Mountains, New York (NY). We conducted a 300-day 15N field tracer experiment to determine how N moves through soil, microbial, and plant pools under different tree species and fertilization regimes. Samples were collected from single-species plots of American beech (Fagus grandifolia Ehrh.), eastern hemlock (Tsuga canadensis L.), red oak (Quercus rubra L.), and sugar maple (Acer saccharum Marsh). Using paired plots we compared the effects of ambient levels of N inputs (11 kg N/ha/y) to additions of 50 kg N/ha/y that began 1.5 years prior to and continued throughout this experiment. Total plot 15N recovery (litter layer, organic and mineral soil to 12 cm, fine roots, and aboveground biomass) did not vary significantly among tree species, but the distribution of sinks for 15N within the forest ecosystem did vary. Recovery in the forest floor was significantly lower in sugar maple stands compared to the other species. 15Nitrogen recovery was 22% lower in the fertilized plots compared to the ambient plots and red oak stands had the largest drop in 15N recovery as a result of N fertilization. Aboveground biomass became a significantly greater 15N sink with fertilization, although it retained less than 1% of the tracer addition. These results indicate that different forest types vary in the amount of N retention in the forest floor, and that forest N retention may change depending upon N inputs.