Possible interference of fertilization in the natural recovery of a declining sugar maple stand in southern Quebec

Research paper by Benoît Côté, Ivan O'Halloran, William H. Hendershot, Heather Spankie

Indexed on: 01 Jan '95Published on: 01 Jan '95Published in: Plant and soil


A five year study was conducted in a 100–120 year old even-aged sugar maple stand in southern Quebec (46°07′N 73° 56′W; 305 m altitude) to explore the effect of different fertilization formulations aimed at 1) correcting the most common nutrient deficiencies observed in declining maple stands (K and Mg), 2) decreasing soil acidity, and 3) simulating enrichment with atmospheric N. Seven fertilizer mixtures were applied in the spring of 1987: 400 kg ha-1 of K2SO4, CaCO3, CaMg(CO3)2, (NH4)2SO4, complete fertilizer (“Maplegro”) and 800 kg ha-1 of an equal mixture of K2SO4+CaCO3 or K2SO4+CaMg(CO3)2. The site was divided into twenty-four 25×25 m plots and treatments including control were replicated three times. Leaves and soils (organic and mineral) were sampled in 1987, 1988 and 1991. Trees were cored at 1.2 m to measure their response in diameter growth. The application of K2SO4+CaMg(CO3)2 was the only treatment that significantly increased (+13%) the average growth rate over the five year period after fertilization. The application of (NH4)2SO4, “Maplegro”, CaMg(CO3)2 and K2SO4 reduced growth relative to the control for the five year period by 29, 24, 20 and 12 %, respectively. Positive and negative effects on growth can be explained mainly in terms of changes in leaf K. Both the application of Maplegro and (NH4)2SO4 increased soil P availability. Overall, the rate of growth showed a cubic pattern of change over the 5 year period with peaks in 1988 and 1991. Trees in control plots went from a limiting foliar status of Ca and Mg, and surplus N in 1987 to a surplus of Ca and Mg, and lower N concentration in 1991. Our results suggest that nutrient deficiencies observed at our site were associated with a disturbance of the biogeochemical cycle of nutrients rather than soil nutrient depletion.