The uptake of 15N-labelled alanine, ammonium and nitrate was studied in ectomycorrhizal morphotypes of intact Pinus sylvestris seedlings. PCR-RFLP analysis of the ITS-region of fungal rDNA was used to identify the morphotypes. Seedlings were grown in forest soil collected at an experimental site in southern Sweden. The treatments compared were a control, N fertilisation (600 kg N ha-1 as urea), sulfur application (1200 kg S ha-1) and lime application (6000 kg CaCO3 ha-1). The forest, which had been dominated by Picea abies, was clear-cut two years before the forest soil was sampled. Soil was also collected from an adjacent standing forest. The aim of the present study was to detect changes in the ectomycorrhizal communities in forest soils and relate these changes to the functional parameter of uptake of nitrogen from organic (alanine and protein) and inorganic (ammonium and nitrate) sources.
Liming resulted in the detection of a morphotype not found in other samples, and one morphotype was only found in samples from the standing forest (the fungi in these two morphotypes could not be identified). All mycorrhizal root tips showed a higher 15N concentration after exposure to different nitrogen forms than non-mycorrhizal long roots. Uptake of15 N from a labelled solution of alanine or ammonium was higher (about tenfold) than uptake from a 15N-labelled solution of nitrate. Uptake of ammonium and alanine varied between 0.2 and 0.5 mg N g-1 h-1 and between 0.1 and 0.33 mg N g-1 h-1, respectively, among the different morphotypes.
In seedlings grown in the control soil and in soil from standing forest, alanine and ammonium were taken up to a similar degree from a supply solution by all morphotypes, whereas ammonium uptake was higher than alanine uptake in seedlings grown in lime-treated soil (about twofold) and, to a lesser extent, in the nitrogen- and sulfur-treated soils. The higher ammonium uptake by morphotypes from the limed soil was confirmed in pure culture studies. In cases where ammonium was used as the N source, an isolate of the S. variegatus morphotype collected in the limed soil produced more biomass compared with isolates of S. variegatus collected in nitrogen- or sulphur-treated soil. One isolate of a silvery white morphotype produced about equal amounts of biomass on alanine and ammonium, whereas all S. variegatus isolated performed better with ammonium as their N source. Based on the results it is hypothesised that liming can induce a shift in the ectomycorrhizal community, favouring individuals that mainly utilise inorganic nitrogen over those that primarily utilise organic nitrogen.