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Biomass accumulation and soil nitrogen availability in an 87-year-old Populus grandidentata chronosequence

TitleBiomass accumulation and soil nitrogen availability in an 87-year-old Populus grandidentata chronosequence
Publication TypeJournal Article
Year of Publication2004
AuthorsWhite LL, Zak DR, Barnes BVerne
JournalForest Ecology and Management
Date Published04/2004

{The Upper Lake States region is marked by major disturbances of fire and logging over 100 years ago that created a landscape mosaic of early successional forests. Given the intimate link between soil N availability and forest growth in this region, it is important to understand how temporal changes in soil N constrain the rate at which forest biomass accumulates following a stand-destroying disturbance. Bigtooth aspen (Populus grandidentata Michx.) currently dominates sites where primarily old-growth pine-hemlock-oak forests once thrived, which provides an opportunity to observe nearly 100 years of succession following severe disturbance. In this study, we examine the relationship between soil N availability and biomass accrual in a series of plots undergoing secondary succession following logging and burning. Our results demonstrate that total aboveground biomass and nitrogen accrual patterns are strongly and positively related on a highly disturbed, bigtooth aspen-dominated ecosystem in northern Lower Michigan. Nitrogen mineralization and nitrification were highest immediately following disturbance, and then decreased over the next approximately 20 years of succession. Following this short-term decrease, these processes increased and attained a maximum value after 70 years of forest succession. Understory biomass accumulation showed the opposite trend of nutrient availability, with highest values during the first 20 years of succession, followed by a dramatic decrease for the next 70 years. Understory biomass began to decrease as plants grew into the overstory or died. Total aboveground biomass was correlated with N mineralization (r = 0.894