Anthropogenic nitrogen deposition enhances carbon sequestration in boreal soils
GLOBAL CHANGE BIOLOGY 2015, 21(8):3169-3180
Maaroufi NI, Nordin A, Hasselquist NJ, Bach LH, Palmqvist K, Gundale MJ

It is proposed that carbon (C) sequestration in response to reactive nitrogen (N-r) deposition in boreal forests accounts for a large portion of the terrestrial sink for anthropogenic CO2 emissions. While studies have helped clarify the magnitude by which N-r deposition enhances C sequestration by forest vegetation, there remains a paucity of long-term experimental studies evaluating how soil C pools respond. We conducted a long-term experiment, maintained since 1996, consisting of three N addition levels (0, 12.5, and 50kgNha(-1)yr(-1)) in the boreal zone of northern Sweden to understand how atmospheric N-r deposition affects soil C accumulation, soil microbial communities, and soil respiration. We hypothesized that soil C sequestration will increase, and soil microbial biomass and soil respiration will decrease, with disproportionately large changes expected compared to low levels of N addition. Our data showed that the low N addition treatment caused a non-significant increase in the organic horizon C pool of similar to 15% and a significant increase of similar to 30% in response to the high N treatment relative to the control. The relationship between C sequestration and N addition in the organic horizon was linear, with a slope of 10kgCkg(-1)N. We also found a concomitant decrease in total microbial and fungal biomasses and a similar to 11% reduction in soil respiration in response to the high N treatment. Our data complement previous data from the same study system describing aboveground C sequestration, indicating a total ecosystem sequestration rate of 26kgCkg(-1)N. These estimates are far lower than suggested by some previous modeling studies, and thus will help improve and validate current modeling efforts aimed at separating the effect of multiple global change factors on the C balance of the boreal region.

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