Forest Ecosystems: Nutrient Cycling


Nutrients are elements or compounds that are essential for the growth and survival of plants. Plants require large amounts of nutrients such as nitrogen (N), phosphorus (P), carbon (C), hydrogen (H), oxygen (O), potassium (K), calcium (Ca), and magnesium (Mg), but only small amounts of others such as boron (B), manganese (Mn), iron (Fe), copper (Cu), zinc (Zn) and chlorine (Cl) (micronutrients). Forest nutrient cycling is defined as the exchange of elements between the living and nonliving components of an ecosystem. The processes of the forest nutrient cycle include: nutrient uptake and storage in vegetation perennial tissues, litter production, litter decomposition, nutrient transformations by soil fauna and flora, nutrient inputs from the atmosphere and the weathering of primary minerals, and nutrient export from the soil by leaching and gaseous transfers. Each nutrient element is characterized by a unique biogeochemical cycle. Some of the key features of the major nutrients are shown in Table 1. Forest trees make less demand on the soil for nutrients than annual crops because a large proportion of absorbed nutrients are returned annually to the soil in leaf and fine root litter and are reabsorbed after biological breakdown of litter materials. Also, a large portion of nutrient requirement of trees are met through internal cycling as compared with agricultural crops. Nutrient cycling in forest ecosystems is controlled primarily by three key factors: climate, site, abiotic properties (topography, parent material), and biotic communities. The role of each factor in ecosystem nutrient dynamics is discussed and illustrated with selected examples from boreal, temperate, and tropical zones. The importance of ecosystem disturbance to nutrient cycling is examined briefly, since some nutrients are added or lost from forest ecosystems through natural (e.g., fire, erosion, leaching) or human activity (harvesting, fertilization). INFLUENCE OF CLIMATE

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Cite this paper

@inproceedings{Foster2005ForestEN, title={Forest Ecosystems: Nutrient Cycling}, author={Neil W. Foster and Jagtar S. Bhatti}, year={2005} }