, Volume 137, Issue 2, pp 252–257 | Cite as

Nitrogen acquisition from inorganic and organic sources by boreal forest plants in the field

  • Jörgen Persson
  • Peter Högberg
  • Alf Ekblad
  • Mona N. Högberg
  • Anders Nordgren
  • Torgny Näsholm
Ecosystems Ecology


A wide range of recent studies have indicated that organic nitrogen may be of great importance to plant nitrogen (N) nutrition. Most of these studies have, however, been conducted in laboratory settings, excluding important factors for actual plant uptake, such as competition, mycorrhizal associations and soil interactions. In order to accurately evaluate the importance of different N compounds to plant N nutrition, field studies are crucial. In this study, we investigated short- as well as long-term plant nitrogen uptake by Deschampsia flexuosa, Picea abies and Vaccinium myrtillus from 15NO3 , 15NH4 + and (U-13C, 15N) arginine, glycine or peptides. Root N uptake was analysed after 6 h and 64 days following injections. Our results show that all three species, irrespective of their type of associated mycorrhiza (arbuscular, ecto- or ericoid, respectively) rapidly acquired similar amounts of N from the entire range of added N sources. After 64 days, P. abies and V. myrtillus had acquired similar amounts of N from all N sources, while for D. flexuosa, the uptake from all N sources except ammonium was significantly lower than that from nitrate. Furthermore, soil analyses indicate that glycine was rapidly decarboxylated after injections, while other organic compounds exhibited slower turnover. In all, these results suggest that a wide range of N compounds may be of importance for the N nutrition of these boreal forest plants, and that the type of mycorrhiza may be of great importance for N scavenging, but less important to the N uptake capacity of plants.


Nutrition Organic nitrogen Ammonium Nitrate Soil respiration 



We would like to thank Margareta Zetherström for technical assistance, Jonas Öhlund for outstanding field work and Håkan Wallmark for conducting IRMS analyses. This study was supported financially by grants from FORMAS (T.N. and P.H.), the Swedish Natural Sciences Council (P.H.) and the MISTRA program ASTA (T.N.).


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Copyright information

© Springer-Verlag 2003

Authors and Affiliations

  • Jörgen Persson
    • 1
  • Peter Högberg
    • 2
  • Alf Ekblad
    • 3
  • Mona N. Högberg
    • 2
  • Anders Nordgren
    • 2
  • Torgny Näsholm
    • 1
  1. 1.Department of Forest Genetics and Plant Physiology, Umeå Plant Science CenterSwedish University of Agricultural Sciences UmeåSweden
  2. 2.Department of Forest Ecology, Section of Soil ScienceSwedish University of Agricultural Sciences UmeåSweden
  3. 3.Department of Natural SciencesÖrebro University ÖrebroSweden

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