Modelling nitrogen saturation and carbon accummulation in heathland soils under elevated nitrogen deposition

Evans, C. D.; Caporn, S. J. M.; Carroll, J. A.; Pilkington, M. G.; Wilson, D. B.; Ray, N.; Cresswell, N.. 2006 Modelling nitrogen saturation and carbon accummulation in heathland soils under elevated nitrogen deposition. Environmental Pollution, 143. 468-478.

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A simple model of nitrogen (N) saturation, based on an extension of the biogeochemical model MAGIC, has been tested at two long-running heathland N manipulation experiments. The model simulates N immobilisation as a function of organic soil C/N ratio, but permits a proportion of immobilised N to be accompanied by accumulation of soil carbon (C), slowing the rate of C/N ratio change and subsequent N saturation. The model successfully reproduced observed treatment effects on soil C and N, and inorganic N leaching, for both sites. At the C-rich upland site, N addition led to relatively small reductions in soil C/N, low inorganic N leaching, and a substantial increase in organic soil C. At the C-poor lowland site, soil C/N ratio decreases and N leaching increases were much more dramatic, and soil C accumulation predicted to be smaller. The study suggests that (i) a simple model can effectively simulate observed changes in soil and leachate N; (ii) previous model predictions based on a constant soil C pool may overpredict future N leaching; (iii) N saturation may develop most rapidly in dry, organic-poor, high-decomposition systems; and (iv) N deposition may lead to significantly enhanced soil C sequestration, particularly in wet, nutrient-poor, organic-rich systems. Enhanced carbon sequestration may slow the rate of nitrogen saturation in heathlands.

Item Type: Publication - Article
Digital Object Identifier (DOI):
Programmes: CEH Programmes pre-2009 publications > Biogeochemistry > BG01 Measuring and modelling trace gas, aerosol and carbon
UKCEH and CEH Sections/Science Areas: _ Biogeochemistry & Ecosystem Function
ISSN: 0269-7491
Format Availability: Electronic, Print
Additional Keywords: Nitrogen saturation, Soil carbon, Atmospheric deposition, Nitrate leaching
NORA Subject Terms: Agriculture and Soil Science
Atmospheric Sciences
Date made live: 04 Jul 2007 09:18 +0 (UTC)

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