Nutrient dynamics in wetland ecosystems are largely controlled by soil moisture content. Therefore, the influence of soil moisture content on N mineralization should be explicitly taken into account in hydro-ecological models. The aim of this research was to establish relationships between N mineralization and soil moisture content in loamy to silty textured soils of floodplain wetlands in central Belgium. Large undisturbed soil cores were taken, incubated for 3 months under various moisture contents, and zero order and first order N mineralization rates were calculated. We used the percentage water-filled pore space (WFPS) as an expression of soil moisture because it is a better index for aeration dependent biological processes than volumetric moisture content or water retention. The relationship between the N mineralization rate and %WFPS was described by a Gaussian model. The optimum WFPS for N mineralization ranged between 57% and 78%, with a mean of 65% ± 6% WFPS. Expected annual net N mineralization rates at field temperature (9.7°C) and at optimal moisture content varied between 30 and 186 kg N ha−1 (0–15 cm depth) year−1, with a mean of 110 ± 42 kg N ha−1 (0–15 cm) year−1. The mean N turnover rate amounted to 2.3 ± 1.1 g N 100 g−1 N year−1. Multiple linear regressions between N mineralization and general soil parameters showed that soil structure has an overriding impact on N mineralization in wetland ecosystems.
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Vol. 28 • No. 3