Regular Article

Plant and Soil

, 326:311

First online:

Mineralisation of carbon and plant uptake of phosphorus from microbially-derived organic matter in response to 19 years simulated nitrogen deposition

  • Ully H. KritzlerAffiliated withInstitute of Biological and Environmental Sciences, University of Aberdeen
  • , David JohnsonAffiliated withInstitute of Biological and Environmental Sciences, University of Aberdeen Email author 

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Here we test the hypotheses that 19 years of simulated pollutant N deposition increases both losses of carbon (C) and the ability of plants to access P from organic material in upland heathland. The grass, Dactylis glomerata, and the dwarf shrub, Calluna vulgaris, were grown in soil containing microbial-derived organic matter labelled with 14C and 33P. We found that both soil and root-surface phosphatase activity increased significantly in response to N deposition. We also found a significant positive relationship between root-surface phosphatase activity and 33P uptake for Calluna, but a negative relationship for Dactylis. Efflux of 14C from the microbial-derived organic matter was strongly dependent on an interaction among plant presence, plant species and N deposition. Our results show that mineralisation of C and P, and subsequent plant uptake of P from organic sources is decoupled. In our experimental conditions, stimulation of P turnover coupled with subsequent plant uptake through up-regulation of root phosphatases is little affected by N addition. However, our data indicate that root-surface phosphatases are likely to be more important for uptake of P derived from organic sources for Calluna than for Dactylis.


Phosphatase Nitrogen deposition Heathland Carbon mineralisation Organic phosphorus 33P 14C