Plant and Soil

, Volume 368, Issue 1, pp 519–534

Preferential use of root litter compared to leaf litter by beech seedlings and soil microorganisms

  • Chanjuan Guo
  • Michael Dannenmann
  • Rainer Gasche
  • Bernd Zeller
  • Hans Papen
  • Andrea Polle
  • Heinz Rennenberg
  • Judy Simon
Regular Article

DOI: 10.1007/s11104-012-1521-z

Cite this article as:
Guo, C., Dannenmann, M., Gasche, R. et al. Plant Soil (2013) 368: 519. doi:10.1007/s11104-012-1521-z

Abstract

Background and aims

Litter decomposition is regulated by e.g. substrate quality and environmental factors, particularly water availability. The partitioning of nutrients released from litter between vegetation and soil microorganisms may, therefore, be affected by changing climate. This study aimed to elucidate the impact of litter type and drought on the fate of litter-derived N in beech seedlings and soil microbes.

Methods

We quantified 15N recovery rates in plant and soil N pools by adding 15N-labelled leaf and/or root litter under controlled conditions.

Results

Root litter was favoured over leaf litter for N acquisition by beech seedlings and soil microorganisms. Drought reduced 15N recovery from litter in seedlings thereby affecting root N nutrition. 15N accumulated in seedlings in different sinks depending on litter type.

Conclusions

Root turnover appears to influence (a) N availability in the soil for plants and soil microbes and (b) N acquisition and retention despite a presumably extremely dynamic turnover of microbial biomass. Compared to soil microorganisms, beech seedlings represent a very minor short-term N sink, despite a potentially high N residence time. Furthermore, soil microbes constitute a significant N pool that can be released in the long term and, thus, may become available for N nutrition of plants.

Keywords

Litter typesRoot litterLeaf litterDecompositionMicrobial biomassPlant N metabolismSoil N pools15N recovery

Copyright information

© Springer Science+Business Media Dordrecht 2012

Authors and Affiliations

  • Chanjuan Guo
    • 1
  • Michael Dannenmann
    • 2
  • Rainer Gasche
    • 2
  • Bernd Zeller
    • 3
  • Hans Papen
    • 2
  • Andrea Polle
    • 4
  • Heinz Rennenberg
    • 1
    • 5
  • Judy Simon
    • 1
  1. 1.Institute of Forest Botany and Tree Physiology, Chair of Tree PhysiologyUniversity of FreiburgFreiburgGermany
  2. 2.Institute for Meteorology and Climate Research, Atmospheric Environmental Research (IMK-IFU)Garmisch-PartenkirchenGermany
  3. 3.UR 1138, Biogéochimie des Ecosystèmes Forestiers, Biogeochemistry in Forest EcosystemsINRAChampenouxFrance
  4. 4.Büsgen-Institut, Forstbotanik und BaumphysiologieGeorg August Universität GöttingenGöttingenGermany
  5. 5.King Saud UniversityRiyadhSaudi Arabia