Soil solution chemistry and element fluxes in three European heathlands and their responses to warming and drought

I.K. Schmidt, A. Tietema, D. Williams, P. Gundersen, C. Beier, B.A. Emmett, M. Estiarte

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    Abstract

    Soil water chemistry and element budgets were studied at three northwestern European Calluna vulgaris heathland sites in Denmark (DK), The Netherlands (NL), and Wales (UK). Responses to experimental nighttime warming and early summer drought were followed during a two-year period. Soil solution chemistry measured below the organic soil layer and below the rooting zone and water fluxes estimated with hydrological models were combined to calculate element budgets. Remarkably high N leaching was observed at the NL heath with 18 and 6.4 kg N ha(-1) year(-1) of NO3-N and NH4-N leached from the control plots, respectively, indicating that this site is nitrogen saturated. increased soil temperature of +0.5degreesC in the heated plots almost doubled the concentrations and losses of NO3-N and DON at this site. Temperature also increased mobilization of N in the O horizon at the UK and DK heaths in the first year, but, because of high retention of N in the vegetation or mineral soil, there were no significant effects of warming on seepage water NO3-N and NH4-N. Retention of P was high at all three sites. In several cases, drought increased concentrations of elements momentarily, but element fluxes decreased because of a lower flux of water. Seepage water DOC and DON was highly significantly correlated at the UK site where losses of N were low, whereas losses of C and N were uncoupled at the NL site where atmospheric N input was greatest. Based on N budgets, calculations of the net change in the C sink or source strength in response to warming suggest no change or an increase in the C sink strength during these early years.
    Original languageEnglish
    JournalEcosystems
    Volume7
    Issue number6
    Pages (from-to)638-649
    ISSN1432-9840
    DOIs
    Publication statusPublished - 2004

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