Simulation of soil nitrogen mineralization and nitrification in two northern Hardwood forest ecosystems

  • Hua Ouyang
  • Marting F. Jurgensen
  • David Reed
  • Hal O. Liechty
  • Glenn D. Mroz


A process-based, biological model is presented that simulates soil nitrogen (N) mineralization and nitrification in two northern hardwood forest ecosystems in the Upper Peninsula of Michigan. The soil system is divided into two compartments (forest floor and mineral soil) since quantity and quality of the organic substrate, and the important driving variables (temperature and moisture) for the model vary between these two compartments. The model focuses on the central position of microorganisms in the N mineralization and nitrification processes, and the use of multiplicative factors to account for the effect of temperature, moisture and carbon(C):N ratio on these processes. The model has been validated with data from two northern hardwood stands in the Upper Peninsula of Michigan. A close agreement between calculated and observed monthly means was obtained in both stands, especially for net N mineralization, which plays a very important role in determining available N. The nitrification rates had relatively larger variation than the N mineralization rates, but the model adequately described the seasonal trends of the observed values. A simple sensitivity analysis was performed to assess the response of the model to changes in important variables (temperature, moisture, organic N, and C:N ratio) between the two study sites. This analysis showed that increased temperature and higher organic N levels consistently increased N mineralization and nitrification in the both stands. The model’s results were most sensitive to moisture changes in forest floor, but were not sensitive to moisture changes in the mineral soil. In contrast, C:N ratio was influential in the mineral soil, but did not have any effect in the forest floor.

Key words

Soil nitrogen Hardwood forests Mineralization Nitrification Biologica model 

State variables


Heterotrophic biomass


Nitrifier biomass


Fresh organic N (litterfall in forest floor, fine root litter in mineral soil)


Old organic N (Humus)




Inorganic N (NH4+ and NO3-)

Driving variables


Temperature °C


Water potential (-MPa)


C:N ratio



Specific growth rate of microbial biomass


Net growth rate of microbial biomass


Actual growth rate of microbial biomass


Specific growth rate of nitrifier biomass


Specific death rate of microbial biomass


Specific death rate of nitrifier biomass


Effect of C:N ratio on ammonification


Effect of C:N on immobilization


Optimum temperature


Temperature coefficient


Specific rate of fresh organic N decomposition


Specific rate of old organic N decomposition


Specific rate of nitrification


Specific rate of immobilization


Michealis-Menten constant for nitrification


Michealis-Menten constant for immobilization


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Copyright information

© Northeast Forestry University 1995

Authors and Affiliations

  • Hua Ouyang
    • 1
  • Marting F. Jurgensen
    • 2
  • David Reed
    • 2
  • Hal O. Liechty
    • 2
  • Glenn D. Mroz
    • 2
  1. 1.Commission for Integrated Survey of Natural ResourceChinese Academy of SciencesBeijingChina
  2. 2.Michigan Technological UniversityHoughtonUSA

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