To explore whether litter quality could alter differences in N-dynamics between soil types, we compared spruce and beech growing on soils with parent material sandstone and limestone, and beech and hornbeam on acid marl and limestone. We measured pH, organic matter content, C:N ratio, soil respiration and net N-mineralization of the organic layer and the mineral topsoil in a laboratory incubation experiment and estimated gross N-mineralization and immobilization with a simulation model. Species effects were restricted to the organic layer, but higher mass for low-degradable species was compensated by higher process rates for high-degradable ones, so N-dynamics per square metre did not differ. Also, the mineral topsoil was not affected by litter quality, which may have been overruled by soil conditions. Forest soils formed from different parent materials, however, clearly differed in N-dynamics, although different from expectations for net N-mineralization. Sandstone showed low respiration and gross N-mineralization, but net N-mineralization was higher than expected, probably due to low microbial N-demand. In contrast, limestone, and to some extent acid marl, showed high respiration and gross N-release, but lower net N-mineralization than expected, because microbial immobilization was also high. Simulated gross N-mineralization even showed a negative instead of positive correlation with net N-mineralization, probably due to the strong increase in immobilization when gross N-mineralization is high. The shift in microbial N-demand may in turn be related to a more general shift from bacteria to fungi over pH-gradients.
- gross nitrogen transformations
- beech forests
- terrestrial ecosystems
- humus forms