|Title||Ecosystem Recovery from Disturbance is Constrained by N Cycle Openness, Vegetation-Soil N Distribution, Form of N Losses, and the Balance Between Vegetation and Soil-Microbial Processes|
|Publication Type||Journal Article|
|Year of Publication||2021|
|Authors||Rastetter, EB, Kling, GW, Shaver, GR, Crump, BC, Gough, L, Griffin, KL|
We present a framework for assessing biogeochemical recovery of terrestrial ecosystems from disturbance. We identify three recovery phases. In Phase 1, nitrogen is redistributed from soil organic matter to vegetation, but the ecosystem continues to lose nitrogen because the recovering vegetation cannot take up nitrogen as fast as it is released from soil. In Phase 2, the ecosystem begins re-accumulating nitrogen and converges on a quasi-steady state in which vegetation and soil-microbial processes are in balance. In Phase 3, vegetation and soil-microbial processes remain in balance and the ecosystem slowly re-accumulates the remaining nitrogen. Phase 3 follows a balanced-accumulation trajectory along a continuum of quasi-steady states that approaches the true steady state asymptotically. We examine the effects of three ecosystem properties on recovery: openness of the nitrogen cycle, nitrogen distribution in and turnover between vegetation and soils, and the proportion of nitrogen losses that are in a refractory form. Openness exacerbates Phase 1 nitrogen losses but speeds recovery in Phases 2 and 3. A high fraction of ecosystem nitrogen in vegetation, resulting from nitrogen turnover that is slow in vegetation but fast in soil, exacerbates Phase 1 nitrogen losses but speeds recovery in Phases 2 and 3. A high proportion of nitrogen loss in refractory form mitigates Phase 1 nitrogen losses and speeds recovery in Phases 2 and 3. Application of our conceptual framework requires empirical recognition of the continuum of quasi-steady states constituting the balanced-accumulation trajectory and a distinction between the balanced-accumulation trajectory and the true steady state.