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Title: Standardized Data to Improve Understanding and Modeling of Soil Nitrogen at Continental Scale
Abstract

Nitrogen (N) is a key limiting nutrient in terrestrial ecosystems, but there remain critical gaps in our ability to predict and model controls on soil N cycling. This may be in part due to lack of standardized sampling across broad spatial–temporal scales. Here, we introduce a continentally distributed, publicly available data set collected by the National Ecological Observatory Network (NEON) that can help fill these gaps. First, we detail the sampling design and methods used to collect and analyze soil inorganic N pool and net flux rate data from 47 terrestrial sites. We address methodological challenges in generating a standardized data set, even for a network using uniform protocols. Then, we evaluate sources of variation within the sampling design and compare measured net N mineralization to simulated fluxes from the Community Earth System Model 2 (CESM2). We observed wide spatiotemporal variation in inorganic N pool sizes and net transformation rates. Site explained the most variation in NEON’s stratified sampling design, followed by plots within sites. Organic horizons had larger pools and net N transformation rates than mineral horizons on a sample weight basis. The majority of sites showed some degree of seasonality in N dynamics, but overall these temporal patterns were not matched by CESM2, leading to poor correspondence between observed and modeled data. Looking forward, these data can reveal new insights into controls on soil N cycling, especially in the context of other environmental data sets provided by NEON, and should be leveraged to improve predictive modeling of the soil N cycle.

 
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Award ID(s):
2106137 1724433 2106138 2012878
NSF-PAR ID:
10420802
Author(s) / Creator(s):
 ;  ;  ;  ;  ;  
Publisher / Repository:
DOI PREFIX: 10.1029
Date Published:
Journal Name:
Earth's Future
Volume:
11
Issue:
5
ISSN:
2328-4277
Format(s):
Medium: X
Sponsoring Org:
National Science Foundation
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Spreadsheet: annual precip_drainage Description: Precipitation measured from nearby Kellogg Biological Station (KBS) Long Term Ecological Research (LTER) Weather station, over 2009-2016 study period. Data shown in Figure 1; original data source for precipitation (https://lter.kbs.msu.edu/datatables/7). Drainage estimated from SALUS crop model. Note that drainage is percolation out of the root zone (0-125 cm). Annual precipitation and drainage values shown here are calculated for growing and non-growing crop periods. Variate    Description year    year of the observation crop    “corn” “switchgrass” “miscanthus” “nativegrass” “restored prairie” “poplar” precip_G    precipitation during growing period (milliMeter) precip_NG    precipitation during non-growing period (milliMeter) drainage_G    drainage during growing period (milliMeter) drainage_NG    drainage during non-growing period (milliMeter)      2. Spreadsheet: biomass_corn, perennial grasses Description: Maximum aboveground biomass measurements from corn, switchgrass, miscanthus, native grass and restored prairie plots in Great Lakes Bioenergy Research Center (GLBRC) Biomass Cropping System Experiment (BCSE) during 2009-2015. Data shown in Figure 2.   Variate    Description year    year of the observation date    day of the observation (mm/dd/yyyy) crop    “corn” “switchgrass” “miscanthus” “nativegrass” “restored prairie” “poplar” replicate    each crop has four replicated plots, R1, R2, R3 and R4 station    stations (S1, S2 and S3) of samplings within the plot. For more details, refer to link (https://data.sustainability.glbrc.org/protocols/156) species    plant species that are rooted within the quadrat during the time of maximum biomass harvest. See protocol for more information, refer to link (http://lter.kbs.msu.edu/datatables/36) For maize biomass, grain and whole biomass reported in the paper (weed biomass or surface litter are excluded). Surface litter biomass not included in any crops; weed biomass not included in switchgrass and miscanthus, but included in grass mixture and prairie. fraction    Fraction of biomass biomass_plot    biomass per plot on dry-weight basis (Grams_Per_SquareMeter) biomass_ha    biomass (megaGrams_Per_Hectare) by multiplying column biomass per plot with 0.01 3. Spreadsheet: biomass_poplar Description: Maximum aboveground biomass measurements from poplar plots in Great Lakes Bioenergy Research Center (GLBRC) Biomass Cropping System Experiment (BCSE) during 2009-2015. Data shown in Figure 2. Note that poplar biomass was estimated from crop growth curves until the poplar was harvested in the winter of 2013-14. Variate    Description year    year of the observation method    methods of poplar biomass sampling date    day of the observation (mm/dd/yyyy) replicate    each crop has four replicated plots, R1, R2, R3 and R4 diameter_at_ground    poplar diameter (milliMeter) at the ground diameter_at_15cm    poplar diameter (milliMeter) at 15 cm height biomass_tree    biomass per plot (Grams_Per_Tree) biomass_ha    biomass (megaGrams_Per_Hectare) by multiplying biomass per tree with 0.01 4. Spreadsheet: annual N leaching_vol-wtd conc Description: Annual leaching rate (kiloGrams_N_Per_Hectare) and volume-weighted mean N concentrations (milliGrams_N_Per_Liter) of nitrate (no3) and dissolved organic nitrogen (don) in the leachate samples collected from corn, switchgrass, miscanthus, native grass, restored prairie and poplar plots in Great Lakes Bioenergy Research Center (GLBRC) Biomass Cropping System Experiment (BCSE) during 2009-2016. Data for nitrogen leached and volume-wtd mean N concentration shown in Figure 3a and Figure 3b, respectively. Note that ammonium (nh4) concentration were much lower and often undetectable (<0.07 milliGrams_N_Per_Liter). Also note that in 2009 and 2010 crop-years, data from some replicates are missing.    Variate    Description crop    “corn” “switchgrass” “miscanthus” “nativegrass” “restored prairie” “poplar” crop-year    year of the observation replicate    each crop has four replicated plots, R1, R2, R3 and R4 no3 leached    annual leaching rates of nitrate (kiloGrams_N_Per_Hectare) don leached    annual leaching rates of don (kiloGrams_N_Per_Hectare) vol-wtd no3 conc.    Volume-weighted mean no3 concentration (milliGrams_N_Per_Liter) vol-wtd don conc.    Volume-weighted mean don concentration (milliGrams_N_Per_Liter) 5. Spreadsheet: summary_N leached Description: Summary of total amount and forms of N leached (kiloGrams_N_Per_Hectare) and the percent of applied N lost to leaching over the seven years for corn, switchgrass, miscanthus, native grass, restored prairie and poplar plots in Great Lakes Bioenergy Research Center (GLBRC) Biomass Cropping System Experiment (BCSE) during 2009-2016. Data for nitrogen amount leached shown in Figure 4a and percent of applied N lost shown in Figure 4b. Note the fraction of unleached N includes in harvest, accumulation in root biomass, soil organic matter or gaseous N emissions were not measured in the study. Variate    Description crop    “corn” “switchgrass” “miscanthus” “nativegrass” “restored prairie” “poplar” no3 leached    annual leaching rates of nitrate (kiloGrams_N_Per_Hectare) don leached    annual leaching rates of don (kiloGrams_N_Per_Hectare) N unleached    N unleached (kiloGrams_N_Per_Hectare) in other sources are not studied % of N applied N lost to leaching    % of N applied N lost to leaching 6. Spreadsheet: annual DOC leachin_vol-wtd conc Description: Annual leaching rate (kiloGrams_Per_Hectare) and volume-weighted mean N concentrations (milliGrams_Per_Liter) of dissolved organic carbon (DOC) in the leachate samples collected from corn, switchgrass, miscanthus, native grass, restored prairie and poplar plots in Great Lakes Bioenergy Research Center (GLBRC) Biomass Cropping System Experiment (BCSE) during 2009-2016. Data for DOC leached and volume-wtd mean DOC concentration shown in Figure 5a and Figure 5b, respectively. Note that in 2009 and 2010 crop-years, water samples were not available for DOC measurements.     Variate    Description crop    “corn” “switchgrass” “miscanthus” “nativegrass” “restored prairie” “poplar” crop-year    year of the observation replicate    each crop has four replicated plots, R1, R2, R3 and R4 doc leached    annual leaching rates of nitrate (kiloGrams_Per_Hectare) vol-wtd doc conc.    volume-weighted mean doc concentration (milliGrams_Per_Liter) 7. Spreadsheet: growing season length Description: Growing season length (days) of corn, switchgrass, miscanthus, native grass, restored prairie and poplar plots in the Great Lakes Bioenergy Research Center (GLBRC) Biomass Cropping System Experiment (BCSE) during 2009-2015. Date shown in Figure S2. 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Variate    Description crop    “corn” “switchgrass” “miscanthus” “nativegrass” “restored prairie” “poplar” date    date of the observation (mm/dd/yyyy) replicate    each crop has four replicated plots, R1, R2, R3 and R4 nh4 conc    nh4 concentration (milliGrams_N_Per_Liter) no3 conc    no3 concentration (milliGrams_N_Per_Liter)   9. Spreadsheet: correlations_don VS no3_doc VS don Description: Correlations of don and nitrate concentrations (milliGrams_N_Per_Liter); and doc (milliGrams_Per_Liter) and don concentrations (milliGrams_N_Per_Liter) in the leachate samples of corn, switchgrass, miscanthus, native grass, restored prairie and poplar plots in Great Lakes Bioenergy Research Center (GLBRC) Biomass Cropping System Experiment (BCSE) during 2013-2015. Data of correlation of don and nitrate concentrations shown in Figure S4 a and doc and don concentrations shown in Figure S4 b. 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Bulk density was determined as soil dry mass per core volume (adding back the dry mass equivalent of the damp subsample removed prior to drying). Dried subsamples were obtained for determination of soil organic matter (SOM), mineral texture composition, and extractable and total carbon (C) and nitrogen (N) within the following week. Sample analyses. A dried subsample was apportioned from each composite sample to determine SOM as mass loss on ignition at 550 °C for 4 h. After organic matter was removed from soil via ignition, mineral particle size composition was determined using a combination of wet sieving and density separation in 49 mM (3 %) sodium hexametaphosphate ((NaPO_3)_6) following procedures in Kettler et al. (2001, Soil Science Society of America Journal 65, 849-852). The percentage of dry soil mass composed of silt and clay particles (hereafter, fines) was calculated as the mass lost from dispersed mineral soil after sieving (0.053 mm mesh sieve). Fines could have been slightly underestimated if any clay particles were burned off during the preceding ignition of soil. An additional subsample was taken from each composite sample to determine extractable N and organic C concentrations via 0.5 M potassium sulfate (K_2SO_4) extractions. We combined soil and extractant (ratio of 1 g dry soil:5 mL extractant) in plastic bottles, reciprocally shook the slurry for 1 h at 120 rpm, and then gravity filtered it through Fisher G6 (1.6 μm pore size) glass fiber filters, followed by colorimetric detection of nitrite (NO_2^-) + nitrate (NO_3^-) and ammonium (NH_4^+) in the filtrate (Hood Nowotny et al., 2010,Soil Science Society of America Journal 74, 1018-1027) using a microplate spectrophotometer (Biotek Epoch, Winooski, VT, USA). Filtrate was also analyzed for dissolved organic C (referred to hereafter as extractable organic C) and total dissolved N via combustion and oxidation followed by detection of the evolved CO_2 and N oxide gases on a Formacs HT TOC/TN analyzer (Skalar, Breda, The Netherlands). Extractable organic N was then computed as total dissolved N in filtrate minus extractable mineral N (itself the sum of extractable NH_4-N and NO_2-N + NO_3-N). We determined soil total C and N from dried, milled subsamples subjected to elemental analysis (ECS 4010, Costech, Inc., Valencia, CA, USA) at the University of South Florida Stable Isotope Laboratory. Median concentration of inorganic C in unvegetated surface soil at our sites is 0.5 % of soil mass (Anderson, 2019, Univ. of South Florida M.S. thesis via methods in Wang et al., 2011, Environmental Monitoring and Assessment 174, 241-257). Inorganic C concentrations are likely even lower in our samples from under vegetation, where organic matter would dilute the contribution of inorganic C to soil mass. Nevertheless, the presence of a small inorganic C pool in our soils may be counted in the total C values we report. Extractable organic C is necessarily of organic C origin given the method (sparging with HCl) used in detection. Active C and N represent the fractions of organic C and N that are mineralizable by soil microorganisms under aerobic conditions in long-term soil incubations. To quantify active C and N, 60 g of field-moist soil were apportioned from each composite sample, placed in a filtration apparatus, and incubated in the dark at 25 °C and field capacity moisture for 365 d (as in Lewis et al., 2014, Ecosphere 5, art59). Moisture levels were maintained by frequently weighing incubated soil and wetting them up to target mass. Daily CO_2 flux was quantified on 29 occasions at 0.5-3 week intervals during the incubation period (with shorter intervals earlier in the incubation), and these per day flux rates were integrated over the 365 d period to compute an estimate of active C. Observations of per day flux were made by sealing samples overnight in airtight chambers fitted with septa and quantifying headspace CO_2 accumulation by injecting headspace samples (obtained through the septa via needle and syringe) into an infrared gas analyzer (PP Systems EGM 4, Amesbury, MA, USA). To estimate active N, each incubated sample was leached with a C and N free, 35 psu solution containing micronutrients (Nadelhoffer, 1990, Soil Science Society of America Journal 54, 411-415) on 19 occasions at increasing 1-6 week intervals during the 365 d incubation, and then extracted in 0.5 M K_2SO_4 at the end of the incubation in order to remove any residual mineral N. Active N was then quantified as the total mass of mineral N leached and extracted. Mineral N in leached and extracted solutions was detected as NH_4-N and NO_2-N + NO_3-N via colorimetry as above. This incubation technique precludes new C and N inputs and persistently leaches mineral N, forcing microorganisms to meet demand by mineralizing existing pools, and thereby directly assays the potential activity of soil organic C and N pools present at the time of soil sampling. Because this analysis commences with disrupting soil physical structure, it is biased toward higher estimates of active fractions. Calculations. Non-mobile C and N fractions were computed as total C and N concentrations minus the extractable and active fractions of each element. This data package reports surface-soil constituents (moisture, fines, SOM, and C and N pools and fractions) in both gravimetric units (mass constituent / mass soil) and areal units (mass constituent / soil surface area integrated through 7.6 cm soil depth, the depth of sampling). Areal concentrations were computed as X × D × 7.6, where X is the gravimetric concentration of a soil constituent, D is soil bulk density (g dry soil / cm^3), and 7.6 is the sampling depth in cm. 
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  5. Abstract The National Ecological Observatory Network (NEON) is a multidecadal and continental-scale observatory with sites across the United States. Having entered its operational phase in 2018, NEON data products, software, and services become available to facilitate research on the impacts of climate change, land-use change, and invasive species. An essential component of NEON are its 47 tower sites, where eddy-covariance (EC) sensors are operated to determine the surface–atmosphere exchange of momentum, heat, water, and CO 2 . EC tower networks such as AmeriFlux, the Integrated Carbon Observation System (ICOS), and NEON are vital for providing the distributed observations to address interactions at the soil–vegetation–atmosphere interface. NEON represents the largest single-provider EC network globally, with standardized observations and data processing explicitly designed for intersite comparability and analysis of feedbacks across multiple spatial and temporal scales. Furthermore, EC is tightly integrated with soil, meteorology, atmospheric chemistry, isotope, phenology, and rich contextual observations such as airborne remote sensing and in situ sampling bouts. Here, we present an overview of NEON’s observational design, field operation, and data processing that yield community resources for the study of surface–atmosphere interactions. Near-real-time data products become available from the NEON Data Portal, and EC and meteorological data are ingested into AmeriFlux and FLUXNET globally harmonized data releases. Open-source software for reproducible, extensible, and portable data analysis includes the eddy4R family of R packages underlying the EC data product generation. These resources strive to integrate with existing infrastructures and networks, to suggest novel systemic solutions, and to synergize ongoing research efforts across science communities. 
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