Atmospheric nitrogen deposition and canopy retention influences on photosynthetic performance at a high nitrogen deposition Swiss forest

Wortman Eric 1, Tomaszewski Timothy 2, Waldner Peter 3, Schleppi Patrick 3, Thimonier Anne 3, Eugster Werner 4, Buchmann Nina 4, Sievering Herman 4,5

1 U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, Denver, Colorado, USA
2 Institute of Ecology and Evolution, University of Oregon, Eugene, Oregon, USA
3 Swiss Federal Institute for Forest, Snow and Landscape Research, Zürcherstr. 111, CH-8903 Birmensdorf, Switzerland
4 Institute of Agricultural Sciences, ETH, CH-8092 Zurich, Switzerland
5 Global Monitoring Division, Earth System Research Laboratory, National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, Boulder, Colorado, USA

Tellus B 64 (2012): 17216

DOI: 10.3402/tellusb.v64i0.17216


Portable chlorophyll fluorometry measurements, providing plant photosynthetic efficiency (PE) data, were carried out at two contrasting Swiss forests experiencing high nitrogen (N) deposition. Fluorometry data were obtained in conjunction with controlled N treatment applications within forest canopies to more realistically simulate deposition of plant-available N species. At the high N deposition Novaggio oak forest, growing season canopy N applications caused increases in PE and other photosynthetic measures. Similar N applications at the Lägeren mixed beech and spruce forest site indicated a possible PE decrease in beech leaves and no effect on spruce needles. N is considered a growth-limiting nutrient in temperate environments where low to moderate N deposition can benefit forest growth; however, high N deposition can have negative effects on forest health and growth due to nutrient imbalances. We conclude that the growth effect dominates at both sites, thereby increasing the potential for carbon sequestration. We found clear evidence of direct leaf-level canopy N uptake in combination with increased PE at the Novaggio oak forest site and no definitive evidence of negative N effects at the Lägeren site. We conclude that PE measurements with chlorophyll fluorometry is a useful tool to quantify N and carbon exchange aspects of deciduous forest dynamics.

Keywords: atmospheric nitrogen deposition, fluorometry, canopy nitrogen uptake, photosynthetic efficiency, carbon storage