Canadian Forest Service Publications

Changes to mineral N cycling and microbial communities in black spruce humus after additions of (NH4)2SO4 and condensed tannins extracted from Kalmia angustifolia and balsam fir. 2000. Bradley, R.L.; Titus, B.D.; Preston, C.M. Soil Biology and Biochemistry 32: 1227-1240.

Year: 2000

Issued by: Pacific Forestry Centre

Catalog ID: 5475

Language: English

Availability: Order paper copy (free)

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Mechanisms responsible for conifer growth "check" on cutovers invaded by Kalmia angustifolia L. in central Newfoundland were studied by examining effects of added Kalmia and balsam fir (Abies balsamea (L.) Mill) condensed tannins on black spruce humus N dynamics and microbial community development over 10 weeks using microcosms. Because of the silvicultural implications, interactions of tannins with fertiliser N, applied as (NH4)2SO4, were also studied. Both tannin types significantly reduced NH4+-N leaching, whereas only Kalmia tannins reduced NO3--N leaching, and then only from non-fertilised humus. Tannins did not significantly affect mineral N leaching from fertilised humus. Fertiliser N increased gross N mineralisation rates such that the increase in actively cycling N was many times greater than the increase in N leaching due to fertiliser N addition. Gross N mineralisation rates were higher in fertilised humus amended with tannins, suggesting possible toxicity of tannins on microbes at high N concentrations. Recovery of added tannins in leachate and in post-treatment humus samples was low. Net anaerobic N mineralisation decreased with tannin additions but increased with fertiliser N additions. There were few significant treatment effects on microbial properties derived from humus respirometry. Microbial biomass and basal respiration rates of all treatments declined by 30% and 37% respectively, indicating a general loss of available C during the experiment. The ratio of Cmic-to-N mineralised as well as the nutrient deficiency index was lowest in humus amended with Kalmia tannins, suggesting higher microbial N deficiency in this treatment. Utilisation rates of various C sources by microbial communities showed distinctive patterns between pre-treatment and post-treatment humus samples, but did not reveal distinctive patterns among different treatments. Overall, results suggested that (1) condensed tannins decreased mineral N cycling abiotically by binding to and sequestering organic N sources, (2) fertiliser N counteracted negative effects of condensed tannins on humus N cycling, (3) microbial communities were N limited, which prevented abundant leaching of fertiliser N while maintaining fertiliser N in an active pool, and (4) the physiology and functional diversity of soil heterotrophic communities were controlled by C availability but were unaffected by tannin or fertiliser N additions. Further work is needed to determine the ecological importance of Kalmia tannins, relative to tannins produced by other plants, in reducing humus N availability on spruce cutovers.