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Oecologia. 2012 Oct;170(2):551-65. doi: 10.1007/s00442-012-2323-y. Epub 2012 Apr 11.

Changes to the N cycle following bark beetle outbreaks in two contrasting conifer forest types.

Author information

1
Department of Zoology, University of Wisconsin, Madison, WI 53706, USA. jgriffin2@wisc.edu

Abstract

Outbreaks of Dendroctonus beetles are causing extensive mortality in conifer forests throughout North America. However, nitrogen (N) cycling impacts among forest types are not well known. We quantified beetle-induced changes in forest structure, soil temperature, and N cycling in Douglas-fir (Pseudotsuga menziesii) forests of Greater Yellowstone (WY, USA), and compared them to published lodgepole pine (Pinus contorta var. latifolia) data. Five undisturbed stands were compared to five beetle-killed stands (4-5 years post-outbreak). We hypothesized greater N cycling responses in Douglas-fir due to higher overall N stocks. Undisturbed Douglas-fir stands had greater litter N pools, soil N, and net N mineralization than lodgepole pine. Several responses to disturbance were similar between forest types, including a pulse of N-enriched litter, doubling of soil N availability, 30-50 % increase in understory cover, and 20 % increase in foliar N concentration of unattacked trees. However, the response of some ecosystem properties notably varied by host forest type. Soil temperature was unaffected in Douglas-fir, but lowered in lodgepole pine. Fresh foliar %N was uncorrelated with net N mineralization in Douglas-fir, but positively correlated in lodgepole pine. Though soil ammonium and nitrate, net N mineralization, and net nitrification all doubled, they remained low in both forest types (<6 μg N g soil(-1) NH(4) (+)or NO(3) (-); <25 μg N g soil(-1) year(-1) net N mineralization; <8 μg N g soil(-1) year(-1) net nitrification). Results suggest that beetle disturbance affected litter and soil N cycling similarly in each forest type, despite substantial differences in pre-disturbance biogeochemistry. In contrast, soil temperature and soil N-foliar N linkages differed between host forest types. This result suggests that disturbance type may be a better predictor of litter and soil N responses than forest type due to similar disturbance mechanisms and disturbance legacies across both host-beetle systems.

PMID:
22492169
DOI:
10.1007/s00442-012-2323-y
[Indexed for MEDLINE]

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