Carbon respiration and nitrogen dynamics in Corsican pine litter amended with aluminium and tannins

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Kraal, P, Nierop, KGJ, Kaal, J & Tietema, A 2009, 'Carbon respiration and nitrogen dynamics in corsican pine litter amended with aluminium and tannis', Soil Biology and Biochemistry, vol. 41, no. 11, pp. 2318-2327.

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We investigated the carbon (C) mineralisation and nitrogen (N) dynamics in litter from a Corsican pine forest in response to individual and combined additions of aluminium (Al), condensed tannin (extracted from fresh Corsican pine needles) and hydrolysable tannin (commercial tannic acid). Production rates of CO2, NH4+ and NO3 concentrations, tannin concentrations and Al speciation were determined at various time intervals during a 28-day incubation experiment. The addition of Al decreased CO2 production and shut down nitrification. Exchangeable NH4+ strongly increased in the Al-amended litter, likely due to (i) decreased microbial uptake of NH4+, (ii) the inhibition of nitrification and (iii) competition for soil organic matter (SOM) binding sites by Al. Both tannin species affected C mineralisation and/or N dynamics, be it in different ways. Addition of tannic acid led to a strong increase of the C mineralisation rate and microbial uptake of N, caused by rapid degradation of this labile tannin and subsequent increased microbial nutrient demand. Net immobilisation of N occurred as long as one week after addition. Condensed tannin was not consumed but probably strongly bound to (nitrogenous) SOM compounds, forming recalcitrant complexes and decreasing net N mineralisation. Complexation of Al by tannins in solution before addition to the litter mitigated the Al-induced release of exchangeable NH4+. In the case of condensed tannin with complexed Al, this was due to detoxification of Al through complexation. Increased microbial demand for N likely played a major role in decreased NH4+ accumulation in the samples to which tannic acid with complexed Al was added. Nitrification was shut down despite of the complexation of Al by either condensed tannin or tannic acid.