, Volume 342, Issue 1-2, pp 129-139
Date: 07 Dec 2010

Plant physiological responses to hydrologically mediated changes in nitrogen supply on a boreal forest floodplain: a mechanism explaining the discrepancy in nitrogen demand and supply

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Abstract

A discrepancy between plant demand and soil supply of nitrogen (N) has been observed in early successional stages of riparian vegetation in interior Alaska. We hypothesized that a hydrologically mediated N supply serves as a mechanism to balance this apparent deficiency of plant N supply. To test this hypothesis, we conducted a tracer experiment and measured the activity of nitrate reductase (NRA) over the summer on the early successional floodplain of the Tanana River in interior Alaska. Isotopic data showed that river-/groundwater was an important source of plant water and that hyporheic N could be absorbed by early successional species. Plant NRA generally increased as the growing season progressed, and NO 3 -N availability increased. Both Salix interior Rowlee and Populus balsamifera L. used NO 3 -N, and the timing of plant NRA relative to river discharge chemistry and soil NO 3 -N concentrations, strongly suggest that plant uptake of NO 3 -N is coupled to fluvial dynamics. Moreover, this physiological function helps explain the apparent discrepancy between N mineralization and productivity in these riparian ecosystems, and demonstrates that plant N availability in these riparian stands is under significant hydrological control.

Responsible Editor: Herbert J. Kronzucker.