Water, Air, and Soil Pollution

, Volume 116, Issue 1, pp 47–64

Consequences of N Deposition to Forest Ecosystems - Recent Results and Future Research Needs

  • Heinz Rennenberg
  • Arthur Gessler

DOI: 10.1023/A:1005257500023

Cite this article as:
Rennenberg, H. & Gessler, A. Water, Air, & Soil Pollution (1999) 116: 47. doi:10.1023/A:1005257500023


Wet and dry deposition of atmospheric nitrogen (N) compounds into forest ecosystems and their effect on physical, chemical and microbial processes in the soil has attracted considerable attention for many years. Still the consequences of atmospheric N deposition on N metabolism of trees and its interaction with soil microbial processes has only recently been studied. Atmospheric N deposited to the leaves is thought to enter the general N metabolism of the leaves, but the processes involved, the interaction with different metabolic pathways, and the connection between injury by atmospheric N and its metabolic conversion are largely unknown.

Laboratory and field experiments have shown that N of atmospheric NO2 and NH3, deposited to the leaves of trees, is subject to long-distance transport in the phloem to the roots. This allocation can result in considerable decline of N uptake by the roots. Apparently, the flux of N from the soil into the roots can be down-regulated to an extent that equals N influx into the leaves. This down-regulation is not mediated by generally enhanced amino-N contents, but by elevated levels of particular amino acids. Field experiments confirm these results from laboratory studies: Nitrate (NO3) uptake by the roots of trees at a field sites exposed to high loads of atmospheric N is negligible, provided concentrations of Gln in the roots are high.

At the ecosystem level, consequences of reduced N uptake by the roots of trees exposed to high loads of atmospheric N are (1) an increased availability of N for soil microbial processes, (2) enhanced emission of gaseous N-oxides from the soil, and (3) elevated leaching of NO3 into the ground water. How recent forest management practices aimed at transforming uniform monocultures to more structured species-rich forests will interact with these processes remains to be seen. Possible implications of these forest management practices on N metabolism in trees and N conversion in the soil are discussed particularly in relation to atmospheric N deposition.

nitrateammoniumuptakeregulationnitrogen oxidesammonia

Copyright information

© Kluwer Academic Publishers 1999

Authors and Affiliations

  • Heinz Rennenberg
    • 1
  • Arthur Gessler
    • 1
  1. 1.Institut für Forstbotanik und Baumphysiologie, Professur für BaumphysiologieAlbert-Ludwigs-Universität FreiburgFreiburgGermany