Volume 11, issue 19 | Copyright
Biogeosciences, 11, 5411-5424, 2014
© Author(s) 2014. This work is distributed under
the Creative Commons Attribution 3.0 License.

Research article 07 Oct 2014

Research article | 07 Oct 2014

Quantifying the effects of clear-cutting and strip-cutting on nitrate dynamics in a forested watershed using triple oxygen isotopes as tracers

U. Tsunogai1, D. D. Komatsu1,*, T. Ohyama1, A. Suzuki2, F. Nakagawa2,**, I. Noguchi3, K. Takagi4, M. Nomura4, K. Fukuzawa4, and H. Shibata4 U. Tsunogai et al.
  • 1Graduate School of Environmental Studies, Nagoya University, Furo-cho, Chikusa-ku, Nagoya 464-8601, Japan
  • 2Earth and Planetary System Science, Faculty of Science, Hokkaido University, N10 W8, Kita-ku, Sapporo 060-0810, Japan
  • 3Institute of Environmental Sciences, Environmental and Geological Research Department, Hokkaido Research Organization, N19 W12, Kita-ku, Sapporo 060-0819, Japan
  • 4Field Science Center for Northern Biosphere, Hokkaido University, N9 W9, Kita-ku, Sapporo 060-0809, Japan
  • *present address: School of Marine Science and Technology, Tokai University, 3-20-1, Orido, Shimizu-ku, Shizuoka-shi, Shizuoka 424-8610, Japan
  • **present address: Graduate School of Environmental Studies, Nagoya University, Furo-cho, Chikusa-ku, Nagoya 464-8601, Japan

Abstract. Temporal variations in the stable isotopic compositions of nitrate dissolved in stream water eluted from a cool–temperate forested watershed (8 ha) were measured to quantify the biogeochemical effects of clear-cutting of trees and subsequent strip-cutting of the understory vegetation, dwarf bamboo (Sasa senanensis), with special emphasis on changes in the fate of atmospheric nitrate that had been deposited onto the watershed based on Δ17O values of nitrate. A significant increase in stream nitrate concentration to 15 μmol L−1 in spring of 2004 was correlated with a significant increase in the Δ17O values of nitrate. Additionally, the high Δ17O values of +14.3‰ suggest that the direct drainage of atmospheric nitrate accounted for more than 50% of total nitrate exported from the forested watershed peaking in spring. Similar increases in both concentrations and Δ17O values were also found in spring of 2005. Conversely, low Δ17O values less than +1.5‰ were observed in other seasons, regardless of increases in stream nitrate concentration, indicating that the majority of nitrate exported from the forested watershed during seasons other than spring was remineralized nitrate: those retained in the forested ecosystem as either organic N or ammonium and then been converted to nitrate via microbial nitrification. When compared with the values prior to strip-cutting, the annual export of atmospheric nitrate and remineralized nitrate increased more than 16-fold and fourfold, respectively, in 2004, and more than 13-fold and fivefold, respectively, in 2005. The understory vegetation (Sasa) was particularly important to enhancing biological consumption of atmospheric nitrate.

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