Storage forms of N were studied in below-ground structures of nine boreal forest understorey plants. The ericaceous shrubs Vacciniumvitis-idaea and V.myrtillus, the fern Gymnocarpium dryopteris, the grass Deschampsia flexuosa, and the herbs Epilobium angustifolium, Maianthemum bifolium, Solidago virgaurea, Geranium sylvaticum and Trientalis europaea were sampled in early summer and late autumn from plots fertilised with a complete mixture of nutrients and from non-fertilised control plots. Concentrations of total nitrogen, insoluble and soluble proteins, free amino acids and nitrate were measured, and changes in absolute and relative concentrations of these N fractions between early summer and late autumn were used to identify the forms in which the plants store N. In all species studied, the concentration of free amino acids increased both between summer and autumn and in response to fertilisation, while the concentration of protein N increased only in response to fertilisation. Thus, free amino acids appear to have a central role in N storage. In all of the species except G. dryopteris, D. flexuosa and S. virgaurea, arginine dominated the pool of free amino acids and thus arginine was the major form of stored N in most species. In D. flexuosa and S. virgurea, however, asparagine and arginine together were the major forms of stored N, while glutamine was the major free amino acid, and N storage form, in G. dryopteris.
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