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Nutrient cycling in degenerate natural forests of Europe


The general objective is to investigate the nutrients cycling in European oak forests in order to suggest silvicultural practices for their rehabilitation.

Throughout Europe natural forests are suffering declining productivity as a result of neglected management, particularly the lack of control of fire and grazing. Such exploitation could lead to critically low availability of nutrients and the fear is that this might be most acute in natural and seminatural oak woodlands. Accordingly, the project aims to investigating the nutrients cycling and nutritional status, in burnt or grazed oak woodlands in France, Spain, Ireland and Scotland.

The specific objectives are as follows.
To quantify the cycle of nutrients in analogous stands located throughout southern and western Europe, so providing a contrast in species, growth conditions, climate and soil. Identification of common factors across sites and comparison with earlier studies made by the different teams on fast growing tree crops (including conifers) will enable assessment of the significance of the different measured fluxes.
To establish whether, and to what extent, nutrition is limiting the growth of any of the studied stands.
To compare the input of atmospheric pollutants in rainwater and mist at the different rates and, by comparison, assess the effect of this on growth and the biogeochemical equilibrium.
On the basis of the data obtained, to suggest silvicultural techniques to and in the rehabilitation of Europe's broadleaved woodlands.
To study the conservation of nutrients within the crown brought about by retranslocation from dying leaves and, through comparing the results for the evergreen oaks with those for the deciduous oaks, to assess the importance of the evergreen habit in this regard.

Each participant is responsible for the establishment and monitoring of their experiments on the agreed protocol. In addition, each of the 4 teams is responsible for taking the lead and establishing the protocol to be followed in the following areas:
France, methodology for following retranslocation and internal cycling of nutrients;
Spain, decomposition and release of plant nutrients in newly fallen litter;
Ireland, comparison of analytical results and ensuring comparability of data;
and Scotland, collection of bulk deposition and occult deposition and interpretation of resulting analytical data.


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Participants (3)