Adaptations to nitrogen form: comparing inorganic nitrogen and amino acid availability and uptake by four temperate forest plants

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Abstract:

There are few examinations of the relative availability and plant uptake of inorganic N and amino acid N in temperate forest regions. We determined the availability of amino acid N and inorganic N in soils under two shrub species (Vaccinium ovalifolium Sm. versus Rubus spectabilis Pursh) on three sites near Jordan River, British Columbia, over a growing season. We compared biomass production of the two shrubs and two conifers (Picea sitchensis (Bong.) Carr. and Pseudotsuga menziesii (Mirb.) Franco var. menziesii) when given inorganic N (20:80 or 80:20 NH4 +–NO3 ) or organic N (glycine and glutamic acid) and assessed short-term uptake (24 h) of 15N-labelled NH4 +, NO3 , glycine, or glutamic acid by the four species. Water-extracted soil concentrations of NH4 + were up to 1.5 times greater than NO3 averaged across sites. Concentrations of amino acid N and inorganic N were similar on soils under Rubus, but the amino acid N to inorganic N ratio was up to 2.4:1 in soils under Vaccinium. Soils dominated by Rubus had up to twice the NO3 -N and two thirds the amino acid N concentrations of soils dominated by Vaccinium, averaged across sites and Rubus had relatively high short-term 15NO3 uptake. The dry biomass of conifers was approximately four times greater when supplied mainly with NH4 + compared with NO3 , but biomass of the two shrub species was similar in both inorganic N treatments. All plants had comparable rates of short-term 15N uptake from amino acids and inorganic N, suggesting that amino acids could contribute to the N nutrition of these temperate species; however, dry biomass of all four species grown with amino acids was less than one half that of plants grown with inorganic N.

Document Type: Research Article

DOI: http://dx.doi.org/10.1139/x11-090

Affiliations: 1: Centre for Forest Biology, University of Victoria, P.O. Box 3020 STN CSC, Victoria, BC V8W 3N5, Canada. 2: Pacific Forestry Centre, Canadian Forest Service, 506 West Burnside Rd., Victoria, BC V8Z 1M5, Canada.

Publication date: August 27, 2011

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