Tracing N, K, Mg and Ca released from decomposing biomass to new tree growth: Part II: A model system simulating root decomposition on clearfell sites

A. Weatherall, M. F. Proe, J. Craig, Andrew David Cameron, H. M. McKay, A. J. Midwood

Research output: Contribution to journalArticle

11 Citations (Scopus)


The decomposing roots of harvested trees are a potential source of nutrients for new trees on both conventional and whole-tree harvested clearfell sites. Roots contain significant reservoirs of nutrients, but little is known about the magnitude and rate of their release. The aim of this study was to use stable isotope techniques in a model system to trace nutrients released by decomposing roots. Labelled biomass was obtained by growing Sitka spruce (Picea sitchensis (Bong.) Carr.) seedlings with a generous or poor nutrient supply containing elevated N-15, K-41, Mg-16 and Ca-44. Labelled trees were re-potted in sand and in two contrasting soils types to remove them from the enriched isotope supply. After re-potting, the labelled above-ground biomass was harvested, removed and used in a separate study described previously (Part I of II). In the study described here (Part II of II), new Sitka spruce seedlings were planted alongside the labelled root systems. A full destructive harvest was undertaken after one growing season. Enriched N-15, K-41, Mg-26, and Ca-44 were recovered in the new seedlings in both sand and soils. The elevated amounts of N-15, K-41, Mg-26 and Ca-44 recovered in new seedlings indicate that nutrients released from decomposing roots can make a direct contribution to the growth of new trees on restock sites. The success of this model system will provide guidance for the application of similar techniques in field experiments. (c) 2006 Elsevier Ltd. All rights reserved.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)1060-1066
Number of pages7
JournalBiomass & Bioenergy
Issue number12
Publication statusPublished - Dec 2006


  • whole-tree harvesting
  • Sitka spruce
  • stable isotopes
  • N-15
  • K-41
  • Mg-26
  • Ca-44
  • soil sustainability
  • nitrogen
  • forest
  • magnesium
  • intensities
  • potassium
  • removal

Cite this