Nitrogen cycle patterns during forest regrowth in an African Miombo woodland landscape
Melillo, Jerry M.
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Tropical dry forests in eastern and southern Africa cover 2.5 × 106 km2, support wildlife habitat and livelihoods of more than 150 million people, and face threats from land use and climate change. To inform conservation, we need better understanding of ecosystem processes like nutrient cycling that regulate forest productivity and biomass accumulation. Here we report on patterns in nitrogen (N) cycling across a 100‐year forest regrowth chronosequence in the Tanzanian Miombo woodlands. Soil and vegetation indicators showed that low ecosystem N availability for trees persisted across young to mature forests. Ammonium dominated soil mineral N pools from 0‐ to 15‐cm depth. Laboratory‐measured soil N mineralization rates across 3‐ to 40‐year regrowth sites showed no significant trends and were lower than mature forest rates. Aboveground tree N pools increased at 6 to 7 kg N·ha−1·yr−1, accounting for the majority of ecosystem N accumulation. Foliar δ15N <0‰ in an N‐fixing canopy tree across all sites suggested that N fixation may contribute to ecosystem N cycle recovery. These results contrast N cycling in wetter tropical and Neotropical dry forests, where indicators of N scarcity diminish after several decades of regrowth. Our findings suggest that minimizing woody biomass removal, litter layer, and topsoil disturbance may be important to promote N cycle recovery and natural regeneration in Miombo woodlands. Higher rates of N mineralization in the wet season indicated a potential that climate change‐altered rainfall leading to extended dry periods may lower N availability through soil moisture‐dependent N mineralization pathways, particularly for mature forests.
Author Posting. © American Geophysical Union, 2019. This article is posted here by permission of American Geophysical Union for personal use, not for redistribution. The definitive version was published in Journal of Geophysical Research-Biogeosciences, 124(6), (2019): 1591-1603, doi:10.1029/2018JG004803.
Suggested CitationArticle: Mayes, Marc, Melillo, Jerry M., Neill, Christopher, Palm, Cheryl, Mustard, Jack, Nyadzi, Gerson, "Nitrogen cycle patterns during forest regrowth in an African Miombo woodland landscape", DOI:10.1029/2018JG004803, https://hdl.handle.net/1912/24564
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