Water, Air, & Soil Pollution: Focus

, Volume 4, Issue 6, pp 251-258

First online:

Applying metabolic fingerprinting to ecology: The use of Fourier-transform infrared spectroscopy for the rapid screening of plant responses to N deposition

  • Ed GidmanAffiliated withInstitute of Biological Sciences, University of Wales
  • , Royston GoodacreAffiliated withDepartment of Chemistry, UMIST
  • , Bridget EmmettAffiliated withCentre for Ecology and Hydrology, Bangor
  • , Lucy J. SheppardAffiliated withCentre for Ecology and Hydrology, Edinburgh
  • , Ian D. LeithAffiliated withCentre for Ecology and Hydrology, Edinburgh
  • , Dylan Gwynn-JonesAffiliated withCentre for Ecology and Hydrology, Edinburgh Email author 

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The potential for metabolic fingerprinting via Fourier-transform infrared (FT-IR) spectroscopy to provide a novel approach for the detection of plant biochemical responses to N deposition is examined. An example of spectral analysis using shoot samples taken from an open top chamber (OTC) experiment simulating wet ammonium deposition is given. Sample preparation involved oven drying and homogenisation via mill grinding. Slurries of a consistent dilution were then prepared prior to FT-IR analysis. Spectra from control, 8 and 16 kg N ha−1 yr−1 treatments were then subjected to cross-validated discriminant function analysis. Ordination diagrams showed clear separation between the three N treatments examined. The potential for using Calluna vulgaris (L.) Hull as a bioindicator of N deposition is further evident from these results. The results also clearly demonstrate the power of FT-IR in discriminating between subtle phenotypic alterations in overall plant biochemistry as affected by ammonium pollution.


ammonium deposition Calluna vulgaris chemometrics critical load metabolic fingerprinting plant response