Plant and Soil

, Volume 337, Issue 1–2, pp 93–110 | Cite as

Microbial N turnover processes in three forest soil layers following clear cutting of an N saturated mature spruce stand

  • B. Matejek
  • C. Huber
  • M. Dannenmann
  • M. Kohlpaintner
  • R. Gasche
  • H. Papen
Regular Article


Microbial N turnover processes were investigated in three different forest soil layers [organic (O) layer, 0–10 cm depth (M1), 10–40 cm depth (M2)] after the clear cutting of a nitrogen (N) saturated spruce stand at the Höglwald Forest (Bavaria, Germany). The aim of the study was to provide detailed insight into soil-layer specific microbial production and the consumption of inorganic N within the main rooting zone. Furthermore, we intended to clarify the relevance of each soil layer investigated in respect of the observed high spatial variation of seepage water nitrate (NO 3 ) concentration at a depth of 40 cm. The buried bag and the 15N pool dilution techniques were applied to determine the net and gross N turnover rates. In addition, soil pH, C:N ratio, pool sizes of soil ammonium (NH 4 + ) and NO 3 , as well as quantities of microbial biomass carbon (Cmic) and nitrogen (Nmic) were determined. The 40 cm thick upper mineral soil was found to be the main place of NO 3 production with a NO 3 supply or net nitrification three times higher than in the considerably thinner O layer. Nevertheless, O layer nitrification processes determined via in situ field experiments showed significant correlation with seepage water NO 3 . An improved correlation noted several months after the cut may result from a transport-induced time shift of NO 3 with downstream hydrological pathways. In contrast, the soil laboratory incubation experiments found no indication that mineral soil is relevant for the spatial heterogeneity of seepage water NO 3 . The results from our study imply that in situ experiments may be better suited to studies investigating N turnover in relation to NO 3 loss via seepage water in similar ecosystems in order to gain representative data.


Spatial variability Net nitrification Gross nitrification Nitrate leaching Clear cut 



This work was funded by the Deutsche Forschungsgemeinschaft (DFG) under contract number PA 442/5-2.


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Copyright information

© Springer Science+Business Media B.V. 2010

Authors and Affiliations

  • B. Matejek
    • 1
  • C. Huber
    • 2
  • M. Dannenmann
    • 1
  • M. Kohlpaintner
    • 2
  • R. Gasche
    • 1
  • H. Papen
    • 1
  1. 1.Karlsruhe Institute of Technology (KIT), Institute for Meteorology and Climate Research (IMK), Atmospheric Environmental Research (IFU)Garmisch-PartenkirchenGermany
  2. 2.Technische Universität München, Wissenschaftszentrum Weihenstephan, Fachgebiet für Waldernährung und WasserhaushaltFreisingGermany

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