Title page for ETD etd-04142010-123554

Type of Document Dissertation
Author Kelly, Charlene Nicole
Author's Email Address kellycn@vt.edu
URN etd-04142010-123554
Title Carbon and nitrogen cycling in watersheds of contrasting vegetation types in the Fernow Experimental Forest, West Virginia
Degree PhD
Department Forestry
Advisory Committee
Advisor Name Title
Schoenholtz, Stephen H. Committee Chair
Adams, Mary Beth Committee Member
Berry, Duane F. Committee Member
Burger, James A. Committee Member
Webster, Jackson R. Committee Member
  • Fernow Experimental Forest
  • nitrogen cycling
  • forest soils
  • Norway spruce
  • vegetation conversion
Date of Defense 2010-04-01
Availability unrestricted
Increased anthropogenic deposition of nitrogen (N) and land-use changes associated with planted forests have important implications for sustainable forest management and associated water quality. The purpose of the research for this dissertation was to explore how N deposition will affect the long-term health, productivity, and carbon (C) and N sequestration of conifer and hardwood forest types by examining the mechanisms controlling N cycling and NO3-N production in two watersheds with contrasting vegetation at the Fernow Experimental Forest (FEF), West Virginia. I utilized watershed C and N budgets to account for differences in stream export of NO3-N from streams draining adjacent watersheds containing (i) planted Norway spruce (Picea abies) and (ii) native Appalachian hardwoods. I also investigated spatial and temporal patterns of dissolved C and N across both watersheds and identified key soil properties associated with NO3-N in soil solution and streamwater. In a third study, I performed a soil inoculation and incubation experiment, which utilized soil from both watersheds, mixed in ratios in order to create a gradient of soil chemical and biotic characteristics. Important differences in biogeochemical cycling of C and N were documented in the watersheds after nearly 40 years of influence by contrasting vegetation. Total C and N pools were 28% and 35% lower in the spruce watershed than the hardwood watershed, respectively. Results also identify vegetation-mediated differences in soil characteristics, with lower soil pH and base cations, and higher extractable aluminum and C:N ratios measured in the spruce soil as compared to the native hardwood soil. Establishment of a spruce monoculture at the FEF significantly altered N cycling, depleted N stores, increased soil acidity, and altered organic matter dynamics, thus leading to low net nitrification rates. Carbon and N properties and processes in the soil profile should be taken into consideration in forests managed for ecosystem services including C sequestration and improvement or maintenance of water quality through alleviation of N inputs into aquatic ecosystems.
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