Nitrate Losses from Disturbed Ecosystems

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Science  04 May 1979:
Vol. 204, Issue 4392, pp. 469-474
DOI: 10.1126/science.204.4392.469


A systematic examination of nitrogen cycling in disturbed forest ecosystems demonstrates that eight processes, operating at three stages in the nitrogen cycle, could delay or prevent solution losses of nitrate from disturbed forests. An experimental and comparative study of nitrate losses from trenched plots in 19 forest sites throughout the United States suggests that four of these processes (nitrogen uptake by regrowing vegetation, nitrogen immobilization, lags in nitrification, and a lack of water for nitrate transport) are the most important in practice. The net effect of all of these processes except uptake by regrowing vegetation is insufficient to prevent or delay losses from relatively fertile sites, and hence such sites have the potential for very high nitrate losses following disturbance.