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Research article - Peer-reviewed, 2008

Plant and microbial uptake and allocation of organic and inorganic nitrogen related to plant growth forms and soil conditions at two subarctic tundra sites in Sweden

Sorensen, Pernille Laerkedal; Clemmensen, Karina Engelbrecht; Michelsen, Anders; Jonasson, Sven; Strom, Lena


In order to follow the uptake and allocation of N in different plant functional types and microbes in two tundra ecosystems differing in nutrient availability, we performed a N-15-labeling experiment with three N forms and followed the partitioning of N-15 label among plants, microorganisms and soil organic matter. At both sites the deciduous dwarf shrub Betula nana and the evergreen Empetrum hermaphroditum absorbed added N-15 at rates in the order: NH4+ > NO3- > glycine, in contrast to the graminoid Carex species which took up added N-15 at rates in the order NO3- > NH4+ > glycine. Carex transported a high proportion of N-15 to aboveground parts, whereas the dwarf shrubs allocated most N-15 to underground storage. Enhanced C-13 in Betula nana roots represents the first field evidence of uptake of intact glycine by this important circumpolar plant. Plant and microbial uptake of label was complementary as plants took up more inorganic than organic N, while microbes preferred organic N. Microbes initially took up a large part of the added label, but over the following four weeks microbial N-15 decreased by 50% and most N-15 was recovered in soil organic matter, while a smaller but slowly increasing proportion was retained in plant biomass.

Published in

Arctic, Antarctic, and Alpine Research
2008, Volume: 40, number: 1, pages: 171-180

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