Legacy effects of drought on nitrate leaching in a temperate mixed forest on karst. uri icon

abstract

  • With climate change the occurrence of summer droughts is expected to increase in Central Europe. This could lead to increased nitrate (NO3-) leaching when water scarcity affects the N-uptake capacity of trees and increases soil N availability due to early leaf senescence and higher litter input. In the present study, we used 16 years of ecological monitoring data from the LTER research site "Zobelboden" in Austria. The monitoring site is a mixed Spruce-Sycamore-Ash-Beech forest on karst, which is representative for many watersheds that supply drinking water in Austria. We found that in the year after a summer drought, NO3- leaching via soil water seepage was significantly elevated compared to the long-term mean. While in normal years, NO3- leaching was primarily affected by soil water seepage volume, after a summer drought these controls changed and NO3- leaching was controlled by NO3- input via precipitation, tree N uptake, and vapor-pressure deficit. Furthermore, higher aboveground litter input during dry years was correlated with increased NO3- leaching in the following year. Our findings show that NO3- leaching from temperate mountain forests on karst is susceptible to summer drought, which could affect drinking water quality in the Central European Alps in the future, especially in combination with forest disturbances like bark beetle outbreaks, which are often a direct consequence of drought damage to trees.

publication date

  • 2020
  • 2020