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Long-term nitrogen dynamics of Coweeta forested watersheds in the southeastern United States of America


We analyzed long-term (23 years) data of inorganic N deposition and loss for an extensive network of mature mixed hardwood covered watersheds in the southern Appalachians of North Carolina to assess trends and dynamics of N in baseline ecosystems. We also assessed watershed N saturation in the context of altered N cycles and stream inorganic N responses associated with management practices (cutting prescriptions, species replacement, and prescribed burning) and with natural disturbances (drought and wet years, insect infestations, hurricane damage, and ou>ne events) on reference watersheds. Reference watersheds were characterized as highly conservative of inorganic N with deposition -1 yr -1 and stream water exports below 0.25 kg ha -1 yr -1 . However,reference watersheds appeared to be in a transition phase between stage 0 and stage 1 of watershed N saturation as evidenced by significant time trend increases in annual flow-weighted concentrations of N 3 - in stream water and increases in the seasonal amplitude aud duration of NO 3 concentrations during 1972-1994. These stream water chemistry trends were partially attributed to significant increases in NO 3 - and NH 4 + concentrations in bulk precipitation over the same period and/or reduced biological demand due to forest maturation. Levels and annual patterns of stream NO 3 - concentrations and intra-annual seasonal patterns characteristic of latter phases of stages 1 and 2 of watershed N saturation were found for low-elevation and high-elevation clear-cut watersheds, respectively, and were related to the dynamics of microbial transformations of N and vegetation uptake. Evidence for stage 3 of N saturation, where the watershed is a net source of N rather than a N sink, was found for the most disttibutcd watershed at Coweeta (hardwood converted to grass, fertilized, limed, treat& with herbicide, and snbsequently characterized by successional vegetation). Compared to other intensive mauagement practices, prescribed burning had little effect on stream water NO 3 - concentrations, aud stream NO 3 - losses associated with natural disturbances are small and short-lived.

2001

Swank, Wayne T.
Vose, James M.

Miscellaneous Publication

In: N2001: The second international nitrogen conference: optimizing nitrogen management in food and energy production and environmental protection. Washington, DC: Ecological Society of America: 116

Swank, Wayne T.; Vose, James M. 2001. Long-term nitrogen dynamics of Coweeta forested watersheds in the southeastern United States of America. In: N2001: The second international nitrogen conference: optimizing nitrogen management in food and energy production and environmental protection. Washington, DC: Ecological Society of America: 116


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