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Linking field experiments to long-term simulation of impacts of nitrogen deposition on heathlands and moorlands

Power, Sally A. and Ashmore, Mike A. and Terry, Andrew C. and Caporn, Simon J.M. and Pilkington, Michael G. and Wilson, Deirdre B. and Barker, Christopher G. and Carroll, Jacqueline A. and Cresswell, Neil and Green, Emma R. and Heil, Gerrit W. (2004) Linking field experiments to long-term simulation of impacts of nitrogen deposition on heathlands and moorlands. Water air and soil pollution focus, 4 (6). pp. 259-267. ISSN 0049-6979 (Unpublished)

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The results from three long-term field manipulation studies of the impacts of increased nitrogen deposition (0–120 kg N ha–1 yr–1) on lowland and upland heathlands in the UK were compared, to test if common responses are observed. Consistent increases in Calluna foliar N content and decreases in litter C:N ratios were found across all sites, while increases in N leaching were not observed at any site over the range 0–80 kg ha–1 yr–1. However, the response of Calluna biomass did vary between sites, possibly reflecting site differences in nutrient status and management histories. Five versions of a simulation model of heathland responses to N were developed, each reflecting different assumptions about the fate and turnover of soil N. Model outputs supported the deduction from mass balance calculations at two of the field sites that N additions have resulted in an increase in immobilisation; the latter was needed to prevent the model overestimating measured N leaching. However, this version of the model significantly underestimated Calluna biomass. Model versions, which included uptake of organic N by Calluna and re-mobilisation of N from the soil organic store provided some improvement in the fit between modelled and field biomass data, but re-mobilisation also led to an overestimation of N leaching. Quantification of these processes and their response to increased N deposition are therefore critical to interpreting experimental data and predicting the long-term impacts of atmospheric deposition on heathlands and moorlands.

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