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Plant and Soil

, Volume 397, Issue 1–2, pp 303–315 | Cite as

Mycorrhizal roots in a temperate forest take up organic nitrogen from 13C- and 15N-labeled organic matter

  • Matthew A. Vadeboncoeur
  • Andrew P. Ouimette
  • Erik A. Hobbie
Regular Article

Abstract

Background and aims

The importance of the uptake of nitrogen in organic form by plants and mycorrhizal fungi has been demonstrated in various ecosystems including temperate forests. However, in previous experiments, isotopically labeled amino acids were often added to soils in concentrations that may be higher than those normally available to roots and mycorrhizal hyphae in situ, and these high concentrations could contribute to exaggerated uptake.

Methods

We used an experimental approach in which we added 13C-labeled and 15N-labeled whole cells to root-ingrowth cores, allowing proteolytic enzymes to release labeled organic nitrogen at a natural rate, as roots and their associated mycorrhizal fungi grew into the cores. We employed this method in four forest types representing a gradient of soil pH, nitrogen mineralization rate, and mycorrhizal type.

Results

Intact uptake of organic nitrogen was detected in mycorrhizal roots, and accounted for at least of 1–14 % of labeled nitrogen uptake. Forest types did not differ significantly in the importance of organic uptake.

Conclusions

The estimates of organic N uptake made here using 13C-labeled and 15N-labeled whole cells are less than those reported in other temperate forest studies using isotopically labelled amino acids, and likely represent a minimum estimate of organic N-use. The two approaches each have different assumptions, and when used in tandem should complement one another and provide upper and lower bounds of organic N use by plants.

Keywords

Organic nitrogen uptake Ingrowth core Dual label Temperate forest 

Abbreviations

AA

amino acid

DIN

dissolved organic nitrogen

fintact

fraction of N uptake in organic form

Notes

Acknowledgments

We thank R. Mixon, Z. McAvoy, N. Gagnon, and M. Day for assistance in the field and laboratory. J. Hobbie, S. Ollinger, A. Finzi, J. Aber, M. Ducey, J. Bryce, and two anonymous reviewrs provided thoughtful discussion on experimental design and helped to improve the manuscript. This work was funded by a Switzer Environmental Fellowship, a UNH Dissertation Year Fellowship, the NRESS graduate program, and NSF DEB0614266. We thank the UNH Office of Woodlands and Natural Areas, the Town of Strafford Conservation Commission, and the NH DRED Division of Forests and Lands for field site access.

Supplementary material

11104_2015_2623_MOESM1_ESM.pdf (199 kb)
ESM 1 (PDF 199 kb)

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Copyright information

© Springer International Publishing Switzerland 2015

Authors and Affiliations

  • Matthew A. Vadeboncoeur
    • 1
  • Andrew P. Ouimette
    • 1
  • Erik A. Hobbie
    • 1
  1. 1.Earth Systems Research CenterUniversity of New HampshireDurhamUSA

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