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Research article2024Peer reviewed

Nitrogen uptake, retranslocation and potential N2-fixation in Scots pine and Norway spruce seedlings

Nilsson, Oscar; Nilsson, Urban; Nasholm, Torgny; Cook, Rachel; Hjelm, Karin


Scots pine (Pinus sylvestris L.) has higher early growth rates than Norway spruce (Picea abies (L.) H. Karst.). To help efforts to understand possible reasons for this difference and identify appropriate regeneration methods, we labeled seedlings with N-15 in the nursery to probe nitrogen (N) uptake and retranslocation in Scots pine and Norway spruce seedlings at both harsh and fertile sites in southern and northern Sweden. For this, N-15 dilution was measured during the first two years after planting. We also examined the potential N-2-fixation capacity in fine roots after 5-7 growing seasons. Use of N-15-labeled seedlings enabled clear discernment of contributions of uptake of new N and retranslocation of old N to new foliage. Scots pine seedlings had higher proportions of N derived from uptake (N-dfu) than Norway spruce seedlings, and higher growth. Scots pine seedlings were less responsive to site preparation treatments compared to Norway spruce that has a greater need for appropriate silvicultural measures to grow well. After the second growing season, the contribution of N derived from retranslocation (N-dfr) to N in new foliage had diminished to 10-20% at all except the harshest site, where both species were more dependent on N-dfr. The potential N-2-fixation capacity in fine roots of the two species differed, but in both cases the contribution of N-2-fixation to N-acquisition was negligible.


Nitrogen content; Pinus sylvestris; Picea abies; Seedling establishment; Shoot growth; Site fertility

Published in

New Forests
Publisher: SPRINGER