Spatial variability in soil nutrient availability in an oak-pine forest: Potential effects of tree species

C. S.M. Washburn, M. A. Arthur

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

45 Scopus citations


Established species have been shown to affect soil nutrient availability, but the effects of "native invasive" species on soil nutrient availability are relatively unknown. Oak-dominated forests in the eastern deciduous forest are dynamic in their species composition, with increasing dominance of red maple (Acer rubrum L.) in the midstory and overstory. We hypothesized that higher quality red maple litter within a litter matrix dominated by oaks would accelerate N turnover, increase nutrient availability in the soil, and result in a thinner and less massive O horizon. We examined nutrient availability in soils under three overstory tree species (Quercus prinus L., A. rubrum, and Pinus echinata Mill, or Pinus rigida Mill.), under a shrub (Vaccinium spp.), and in locations without tree stems ("no tree"). Extractable nutrients (P, K, Mg, Ca) and total and available N were quantified in the O horizon and upper mineral soil at 0.5 m and 1.0 m from the base of individual trees or from the center of Vaccinium and no-tree locations. Despite low lignin concentration in red maple litter and low lignin/ N ratio, the lowest N mineralization rates were found in red maple microsites; the highest N mineralization rates were found under oak. Extractable cations were generally highest under red maple and lowest under pines, and red maple had the highest levels of total N (but not NO3 or NH4) in the upper mineral soil. Shifting species composition towards red maple and away from pines in these forests may alter nutrient cycling by increasing surface soil cation availability, but reducing soil N mineralization.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)2321-2330
Number of pages10
JournalCanadian Journal of Forest Research
Issue number12
StatePublished - Dec 2003

Bibliographical note

Copyright 2008 Elsevier B.V., All rights reserved.

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Global and Planetary Change
  • Forestry
  • Ecology


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