January 29, 2020 at 12:33 pm

DeForest, Otuya Publish on Role of Phosphorus in Soil Nitrification in Deciduous Forest

Rael Otuya, portrait

Rael Otuya

Dr. Jared DeForest and Rael Otuya co-authored an article on “Soil nitrification increases with elevated phosphorus or soil pH in an acidic mixed mesophytic deciduous forest” in the journal Soil Biology & Biochemistry.

This study shows that the availability of essential soil nutrients for plant growth, nitrogen and phosphorus, are strongly connected. These results challenge the paradigm that their availability is largely independent of one another. These results will help improve our predictive understanding of ecosystem feedbacks in response to pollution, like acid rain.

DeForest is Associate Professor of Environmental & Plant Biology at Ohio University, and Otuya is pursuing a Ph.D. in Plant Biology.

Jared DeForest, portrait

Dr. Jared DeForest

Abstract: The role of phosphorus (P) mediating nitrogen (N) transformation processes is poorly understood which raises an important question: Does P, like soil pH, have a strong control in altering the cycling of soil N? From 2010 to 2018, pH and/or P availability was elevated with lime and P fertilizer in three mixed mesophytic deciduous forests on the unglaciated portion of the Allegheny Plateau, southeast Ohio, USA. We hypothesized that in addition to soil pH, P addition can influence the cycling of soil N because both can change N dynamics, which can alter nitrification rates. Increasing soil pH increased nitrification and nitrate pools by 30 and 4 times, respectively during the growing season. Furthermore, elevating P also stimulated nitrification and increased soil nitrate pools by 10 and 2 times, respectively. However, the influence of raising soil pH on nitrification was diminished when combined with P addition. Results suggest that N biogeochemical processes are sensitive to P availability, but the mechanistic nature of this relationship appears complex with unclear feedback systems regulating nitrification rates from these deciduous forests.

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