Phosphorus transport along soil pathways in forested catchments

Break neu

Phosphorus (P) is an essential nutrient for living organisms. Whereas agriculture avoids P-limitation of primary production through continuous application of P fertilizers, forest ecosystems have developed highly efficient strategies to adapt to low P supply. A main hypothesis of the SPP 1685 is that P depletion of soils drives forest ecosystems from P acquiring system (efficient mobilization of P from the mineral phase) to P recycling systems (highly efficient cycling of P). Regarding P fluxes in soils and from soil to streamwater, this leads to the assumption that recycling systems may have developed strategies to minimize P losses. Further, not only the quantity but also the chemistry (P forms) of transported or accumulated P will differ between the ecosystems.
In our project, we will therefore experimentally test the relevance of the two contrasting hypothetical nutritional strategies for P transport processes through the soil and into streamwater. As transport processes will occur especially during heavy rainfall events, when preferential flow pathways (PFPs) are connected, we will focus on identifying those subsurface transport paths. The chemical P fractionation in PFPs will be analyzed to draw conclusions on P accumulation and transport mechanism in soils differing in their availability of mineral bound P (SPP core sites). The second approach is an intensive streamwater monitoring to detect P losses from soil to water. The understanding of P transport processes and P fluxes at small catchment scale is fundamental for estimating the P exports of forest soils into streams. With a hydrological model we will simulate soil water fluxes and estimate P export fluxes for the different ecosystems based on these simulations.




Principal investigators:


Dr. Dorit Julich
TU Dresden
Institut für Bodenkunde und Standortslehre
Pienner str. 19
01737 Tharandt
Tel.: (+49) 463 31368


Prof. Dr. Karl-Heinz Feger
TU Dresden
Institut für Bodenkunde und Standortslehre
Pienner str. 19
01737 Tharandt
Tel.: (+49) 463 31806


Dr. habil. Kai Schwärzel
United Nations University
Institute for Integrated Management of Material Fluxes and of Resources
Ammonstr. 74
01067 Dresden
Tel.: (+49) 351 8921 9381


Study sites


Bad Brückenau (BBR)

Conventwald (CON)

Lüss (LUE)

Mitterfels (MIT)

Vessertal (VES)



Funded by


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