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Landscape Interactions among Nitrogen Mineralization, Species Composition, and Long-Term Fire Frequency

James S. Clark
Biogeochemistry
Vol. 11, No. 1 (Sep., 1990), pp. 1-22
Published by: Springer
Stable URL: http://www.jstor.org/stable/1468786
Page Count: 22
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Landscape Interactions among Nitrogen Mineralization, Species Composition, and Long-Term Fire Frequency
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Abstract

Path analysis was used to determine the importance of long-term disturbance regime and the relative importances of correlations among vegetation patterns, disturbance history, and nitrogen (N) mineralization in old-growth forests of northwestern Minnesota. Leaf biomass (estimated by allometric equations), fire history (from fire scars on Pinus resinosa trees), and N mineralization rates (estimated from incubations in situ) were determined from sample plots dominated by - Betula papyrifera, Populus tremuloides, and P. grandidentata, - a mixture of Acer saccharum and Tilia americana, or - Quercus borealis and Ostrya virginiana. Results showed that topographic and soil-moisture controls on N mineralization, vegetation patterns, and disturbance are substantially stronger than is suggested by direct correlation. Indirect interactions among ecosystem variables played in important role. These interactions probably include the tendency for species that cycle large amounts of N to colonize more mesic sites that burned rarely in the past. Soil moisture was correlated both directly with N mineralization and indirectly, through its effects on vegetation pattern, and thus, litter quality. Although disturbance regime also depended on topography, the strengths of relationships between disturbance regime and other variables were relatively weak. These dependencies suggested that long-term fire regime is probably more a consequence than a cause for vegetation and fertility patterns. Topography, through its effects on soil moisture and microclimate, is an overriding influence on ecosystem properties, which in turn influence fire regime.

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