N2 fixing alder (Alnus viridis spp. fruticosa) effects on soil properties across a secondary successional chronosequence in interior Alaska

Abstract

Green alder (Alnus viridis ssp. fruticosa) is a dominant understory shrub during secondary successional development of upland forests throughout interior Alaska, where it contributes substantially to the nitrogen (N) economy through atmospheric N2 fixation. Across a replicated 200? year old vegetation chronosequence, we tested the hypotheses that green alder has strong effects on soil chemical properties, and that ecosystem-level N inputs via N2 fixation decrease with secondary successional stand development. Across early-, mid-, and late-successional stands, alder created islands of elevated soil N and carbon (C), depleted soil phosphorus (P), and more acidic soils. These effects translated to the stand-level in response to alder stem density. Although neither N2 fixation nor nodule biomass differed among stand types, increases in alder densities with successional time translated to increasing N inputs. Estimates of annual N inputs by A. viridis averaged across the upland chronosequence (6.6 ± 1.2 kg N ha year) are substantially less than inputs during early succession by Alnus tenuifolia growing along Alaskan floodplains. However, latesuccession upland forests, where densities of A. viridis are highest, may persist for centuries, depending on fire return interval. This pattern of prolonged N inputs to late successional forests contradicts established theory predicting declines in N2-fixation rates and N2-fixer abundance as stands age.

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Cite this paper

@inproceedings{Mitchell2009N2FA, title={N2 fixing alder (Alnus viridis spp. fruticosa) effects on soil properties across a secondary successional chronosequence in interior Alaska}, author={Jennifer S. Mitchell and Roger W. Ruess}, year={2009} }