Canadian Forest Service Publications

Recovery of 15N-urea 10 years after application to a Douglas-fir pole stand in coastal British Columbia. 2008. Mead, D.J.; Chang, S.X.; Preston, C.M. Forest Ecology and Management 256: 694-701.

Year: 2008

Issued by: Pacific Forestry Centre

Catalog ID: 28813

Language: English

Availability: Order paper copy (free), PDF (request by e-mail)

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The long-term fate of fertilizer N in forest ecosystems is poorly understood even though such information is critical for designing better forest fertilization practices. We studied the distribution and recovery of 15N (4.934 atom% excess)-labelled fertilizer (applied as urea at 200 kg N ha?1) 10 years after application to a 38-39-year-old Douglas-fir (Pseudotsuga menzeisii (Mirb.) Franco) stand in coastal British Columbia. The urea was applied in the spring (May 1982) or fall (November 1982). Sampling was conducted in October 1992, and we found that after 10 years, there were few differences between the fall and spring fertilizer applications in total N and 15N distribution within the tree and forest ecosystem. On average total fertilizer-N recovery was 59.4%; about 14.5% of the applied-N was recovered in the trees including coarse roots, with foliage containing 41% of the labelled-N recovered in the aboveground tree biomass. Tissue 15N remained mobile and could be transferred to new growth. Soil recovery was 39.8%, which had decreased from 57.0% at a previous 1-year sampling, with an average loss of 3.0% per year from the mineral soil and 3.7% from the litter layers. However, it appears that there was little continuing tree uptake. While short-term effects of fall vs. spring urea application were previously reported, there were no long-term effects on either stand productivity or fertilizer use efficiency, suggesting that if fertilization is properly done, timing of fertilization is not a critical issue in terms of maximizing fertilizer use efficiency for the coastal Douglas-fir forest we studied. Our results also highlight the high capacity of this ecosystem to retain externally applied inorganic N over the long-term, the importance of maximizing nitrogen uptake in the first year, and also of the continuing need to develop new approaches to overcome the generally low efficiency of forest N fertilization.