Does atmospheric nitrogen deposition lead to greater nitrogen and carbon accumulation in coastal sand dunes?

Aggenbach, Camiel J.S.; Kooijman, Annemieke M.; Fujita, Yuki; van der Hagen, Harrie; van Til, Mark; Cooper, David; Jones, Laurence. 2017 Does atmospheric nitrogen deposition lead to greater nitrogen and carbon accumulation in coastal sand dunes? Biological Conservation, 212 (B). 416-422.

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Atmospheric nitrogen (N) deposition is thought to accelerate ecological succession, causing a loss of diversity in species-rich dune grasslands and hampering restoration goals. We tested whether elevated atmospheric N deposition results in faster accumulation of soil C and soil N, using three high-resolution chronosequences of up to 162 years in coastal sand dunes with contrasting N deposition and soil base status (high N deposition calcareous and acidic dunes in Luchterduinen, the Netherlands (LD) and low N deposition calcareous dunes in Newborough, UK (NB)). We also used the process model CENTURY to evaluate the relative contribution of N deposition, climate, and soil pH. In contrast to our hypothesis we found that accumulation of soil C and N was greatest at the low N deposition site NB. Model simulations indicated a negative interaction between high N deposition and symbiotic N2 fixation. From this we conclude that high N deposition suppresses and replaces N2 fixation as a key N source. High N deposition led to lower soil C:N only in the early stages of succession (<20 years). The data also revealed accelerated acidification at high N deposition, which is a major concern for restoration of dune grasslands. More data are needed from acidic dunes from low N deposition areas to assess pH effects on soil C and N pools. Therefore, while N accumulation in soils may not be an issue, both acidification and plant community change due to elevated availability of mineral N remain major conservation problems. Restoration in degraded dune grasslands should focus on maintaining habitat suitability, rather than N removal from soil pools.

Item Type: Publication - Article
Digital Object Identifier (DOI):
CEH Sections/Science Areas: Emmett
ISSN: 0006-3207
Additional Keywords: dune grasslands, succession, CENTURY model, biological nitrogen fixation, acidification, plant diversity
NORA Subject Terms: Ecology and Environment
Date made live: 03 Mar 2017 12:44 +0 (UTC)

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