The impact of nitrogen deposition on carbon sequestration by European forests and heathlands

W. de Vries, S. Solberg, M. Dobbertin, H. Sterba, D. Laubhann, M. van Oijen, C. Evans, P. Gundersen, H. Kros, W. Wamelink, G.J. Reinds, M.A. Sutton

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In this study, we present estimated ranges in carbon (C) sequestration per kg nitrogen (N) addition in above-ground biomass and in soil organic matter for forests and heathlands, based on: (i) empirical relations between spatial patterns of carbon uptake and influencing environmental factors including nitrogen deposition (forests only), (ii) 15N field experiments, (iii) long-term low-dose N fertilizer experiments and (iv) results from ecosystem models. The results of the various studies are in close agreement and show that above-ground accumulation of carbon in forests is generally within the range 15–40 kg C/kg N. For heathlands, a range of 5–15 kg C/kg N has been observed based on low-dose N fertilizer experiments. The uncertainty in C sequestration per kg N addition in soils is larger than for above-ground biomass and varies on average between 5 and 35 kg C/kg N for both forests and heathlands. All together these data indicate a total carbon sequestration range of 5–75 kg C/kg N deposition for forest and heathlands, with a most common range of 20–40 kg C/kg N. Results cannot be extrapolated to systems with very high N inputs, nor to other ecosystems, such as peatlands, where the impact of N is much more variable, and may range from C sequestration to C losses
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)1814-1823
JournalForest Ecology and Management
Issue number8
Publication statusPublished - 2009


  • atmospheric nitrogen
  • temperate forest
  • terrestrial ecosystems
  • harvard forest
  • mineral soil
  • n deposition
  • saturation
  • additions
  • growth
  • fertilization


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