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Immediate and long-term nitrogen oxide emissions from tropical forest soils exposed to elevated nitrogen input

Authors

  • BIRGIT KOEHLER,

    1. Buesgen Institute – Soil Science of Tropical and Subtropical Ecosystems, Georg-August-University of Goettingen, Goettingen, Germany,
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  • MARIFE D. CORRE,

    1. Buesgen Institute – Soil Science of Tropical and Subtropical Ecosystems, Georg-August-University of Goettingen, Goettingen, Germany,
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  • EDZO VELDKAMP,

    1. Buesgen Institute – Soil Science of Tropical and Subtropical Ecosystems, Georg-August-University of Goettingen, Goettingen, Germany,
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  • HANS WULLAERT,

    1. Buesgen Institute – Soil Science of Tropical and Subtropical Ecosystems, Georg-August-University of Goettingen, Goettingen, Germany,
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    • 1Present address: Geographic Institute, Johannes Gutenberg University Mainz, 55099 Mainz, Germany.

  • S. JOSEPH WRIGHT

    1. Smithsonian Tropical Research Institute, Box 0843-03092, Balboa, Republic of Panama
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Marife D. Corre, fax +49 551 393310, e-mail: mcorre@gwdg.de

Abstract

Tropical nitrogen (N) deposition is projected to increase substantially within the coming decades. Increases in soil emissions of the climate-relevant trace gases NO and N2O are expected, but few studies address this possibility. We used N addition experiments to achieve N-enriched conditions in contrasting montane and lowland forests and assessed changes in the timing and magnitude of soil N-oxide emissions. We evaluated transitory effects, which occurred immediately after N addition, and long-term effects measured at least 6 weeks after N addition. In the montane forest where stem growth was N limited, the first-time N additions caused rapid increases in soil N-oxide emissions. During the first 2 years of N addition, annual N-oxide emissions were five times (transitory effect) and two times (long-term effect) larger than controls. This contradicts the current assumption that N-limited tropical montane forests will respond to N additions with only small and delayed increases in soil N-oxide emissions. We attribute this fast and large response of soil N-oxide emissions to the presence of an organic layer (a characteristic feature of this forest type) in which nitrification increased substantially following N addition. In the lowland forest where stem growth was neither N nor phosphorus (P) limited, the first-time N additions caused only gradual and minimal increases in soil N-oxide emissions. These first N additions were completed at the beginning of the wet season, and low soil water content may have limited nitrification. In contrast, the 9- and 10-year N-addition plots displayed instantaneous and large soil N-oxide emissions. Annual N-oxide emissions under chronic N addition were seven times (transitory effect) and four times (long-term effect) larger than controls. Seasonal changes in soil water content also caused seasonal changes in soil N-oxide emissions from the 9- and 10-year N-addition plots. This suggests that climate change scenarios, where rainfall quantity and seasonality change, will alter the relative importance of soil NO and N2O emissions from tropical forests exposed to elevated N deposition.

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