Wetting and drying events determine soil N pools in two Mediterranean ecosystems
Faculty of Sciences. Biology
Applied soil ecology: a section of agriculture, ecosystems and environment
, p. 161-170
To improve our knowledge of how nutrient cycling in Mediterranean environments responds to climate change, we evaluated the effects of the continuous changes in soil nitrogen (N) pools during natural wetting and drying events. We measured soil N pools (microbial biomass [MB-N], dissolved organic nitrogen [DON], NH4+ and NO3−) and N ion exchange resins at weekly intervals for one year in two contrasting Mediterranean ecosystems. All soil N fractions in both ecosystems showed high intraseasonal and interseasonal variability that was greater in inorganic soil fractions than in organic N soil fractions. MB-N, DON and resin-NH4+ showed increased concentrations during wetting events. Only the soil NO3− and resin-NO3− showed the opposite trend, suggesting a different response to water pulses compared to the other soil variables. Our results show that N pools are continuously changing, and that this high variability is not associated with the total amount of organic matter and labile soil carbon (C) and N soil fractions found in each ecosystem. The highest variability was found for inorganic N forms, which suggests that organic N forms are more buffered in soils exposed to wetting-drying cycles. Our results suggest that the changes in wetting-drying cycles expected with global climate change may have a significant impact on the availability and turnover of organic and inorganic N.