Articles | Volume 1, issue 1
Hydrol. Earth Syst. Sci., 1, 137–158, 1997
Hydrol. Earth Syst. Sci., 1, 137–158, 1997

  31 Mar 1997

31 Mar 1997

Modelling the ecosystem effects of nitrogen deposition: Model of Ecosystem Retention and Loss of Inorganic Nitrogen (MERLIN

B. J. Cosby1, R. C. Ferrier2, A. Jenkins3, B. A. Emmett4, R. F. Wright5, and A. Tietema6 B. J. Cosby et al.
  • 1Department of Environmental Sciences, University of Virginia, Charlottesville, VA, USA 22901
  • 2Macaulay Land Use Research Insititute, Craigiebuckler, Aberdeen, AB9 2QJ, UK
  • 3Institute of Hydrology, Wallingford OXON OX10 8BB, UK
  • 4Institute of Terrestrial Ecology, Bangor Research Unit, Deiniol Road, Bangor, Gwynedd LL57 2UP, UK
  • 5Norwegian Institute for Water Research, Box 173 Kjelsås, 0411 Oslo, Norway
  • 6Landscape and Environmental Research Group, University of Amsterdam, Nieuwe Prinsengracht 130, 1080 VZ Amsterdam, Netherlands

Abstract. A catchment-scale mass-balance model of linked carbon and nitrogen cycling in ecosystems has been developed for simulating leaching losses of inorganic nitrogen. The model (MERLIN) considers linked biotic and abiotic processes affecting the cycling and storage of nitrogen. The model is aggregated in space and time and contains compartments intended to be observable and/or interpretable at the plot or catchment scale. The structure of the model includes the inorganic soil, a plant compartment and two soil organic compartments. Fluxes in and out of the ecosystem and between compartments are regulated by atmospheric deposition, hydrological discharge, plant uptake, litter production, wood production, microbial immobilization, mineralization, nitrification, and denitrification. Nitrogen fluxes are controlled by carbon productivity, the C:N ratios of organic compartments and inorganic nitrogen in soil solution. Inputs required are: 1) temporal sequences of carbon fluxes and pools- 2) time series of hydrological discharge through the soils, 3) historical and current external sources of inorganic nitrogen; 4) current amounts of nitrogen in the plant and soil organic compartments; 5) constants specifying the nitrogen uptake and immobilization characteristics of the plant and soil organic compartments; and 6) soil characteristics such as depth, porosity, bulk density, and anion/cation exchange constants. Outputs include: 1) concentrations and fluxes of NO3 and NH4 in soil solution and runoff; 2) total nitrogen contents of the organic and inorganic compartments; 3) C:N ratios of the aggregated plant and soil organic compartments; and 4) rates of nitrogen uptake and immobilization and nitrogen mineralization. The behaviour of the model is assessed for a combination of land-use change and nitrogen deposition scenarios in a series of speculative simulations. The results of the simulations are in broad agreement with observed and hypothesized behaviour of nitrogen dynamics in growing forests receiving nitrogen deposition.