Temporal nitrogen dynamics in intensively managed loblolly pine early stand development
Forest production is strongly dependent on nutrient uptake; however, sustainable management of intensively managed plantations requires an improved understanding of this relationship when fertilization occurs frequently across short rotations. Here, we studied temporal nitrogen (N) concentration ([N]) and content (Nc) dynamics under different silvicultural practices (herbicide, fertilization, and planting density) throughout early loblolly pine (Pinus taeda) stand development (5 years). We describe relationships of [N] and Nc of different stand components (foliage, branches, stem, roots, and competing vegetation) with carbon and biomass. Our results demonstrate that [N] of perennial loblolly tissues do not respond to silvicultural practices and progressively decrease through development. While foliar [N] was most responsive to resource availability, it was not consistent across time. Controlling competing vegetation was crucial to promote the use of site resources by the crop tree and increased loblolly Nc by >500%. However, increased N uptake and expedited growth is dependent upon fertilization early in stand development. At age 5, herbicide plus reduced and full fertilization rates exhibited similar aboveground Nc, which was 32% higher than with herbicide only. Increasing planting density resulted in increased above- and belowground loblolly Nc; however, increases in Nc were not proportional with increases in planting density. Net primary productivity and N uptake were linearly related, but age/development strongly controlled N use efficiency. Our study helps to understand complex relationships between N, biomass, and silvicultural practices during early stand development and demonstrates that temporal evaluation of nutrient dynamics is crucial to better understand loblolly pine growth, carbon sequestration potential, and to inform sustainable silvicultural practices across short rotations.