Skip to main content

Nitrification and nitrate reductase activity along a secondary successional gradient

Abstract

The control of nitrification was studied in a secondary successional gradient on Nantucket Island, MA. It was hypothesized that 1) variability in nitrification along the gradient is controlled by litter primary and secondary chemistry, and 2) differences in nitrate availability along the gradient are reflected in potential nitrate assimilation rates in plant tissue. Nitrification varied significantly (p<0.05) by successional stage in all study sites, generally increasing with successional age. The ratio of nitrification to total N mineralization did not vary significantly between successional stages, suggesting substrate limitation of nitrification. Litter terpenoid resin concentration was a significant predictor (p<0.05) of nitrification rate, but soil %C, %N, and water content also contributed significantly to a stepwise regression model predicting nitrification. Nitrate reductase activity (NRA), an index of potential nitrate assimilation, was measured in an assay species (Schizachyrium scoparium). Although there was no significant correlation with nitrification, NRA was significantly (p<0.05) negatively correlated with soil ammonium concentration along the successional gradient at one site, suggesting that plants preferentially utilized ammonium in this system.

This is a preview of subscription content, access via your institution.

References

  1. Aber, J D and Melillo, J M 1982 Nitrogen immobilization in decaying hardwood leaf litter as a function of initial nitrogen and lignin content. Can. J. Bot. 60, 2263–2269.

    Google Scholar 

  2. AlGharbi, A and Hipkin, C R 1984 Studies on nitrate reductase in British anitosperms. 1. A comparison of nitrate reductase activty in ruderal, woodland-edge and woody species. New Phytol. 97, 629–639.

    Google Scholar 

  3. Baldwin, I T, Olson, R K and Reiners, W A 1983 Protein binding phenolics and the inhibition of nitrification in subalpine balsam fir soils. Soil Biol. Biochem. 15, 419–423.

    Article  Google Scholar 

  4. Barford C 1991 Plant litter chemistry and nitrogen cycling along a secondary successional gradient. Masters thesis, Department of Biology, Boston University, Boston, MA.

  5. Bormann, F H and Likens, G E 1979 Pattern and process in a Forested Ecosystem. Springer-Verlag, New York. 253 p.

    Google Scholar 

  6. Bosatta, E and Staaf, H 1982 The control of nitrogen turn-over in forest litter. Oikos 39, 143–151.

    Google Scholar 

  7. Bremner, J M and McCarty, G W 1988 Effects of terpenoids on nitrification in soil. Soil Sci. Soc. Am. J. 52, 1630–1633.

    Google Scholar 

  8. Brookes, P C, Landman, A, Pruden, G and Jenkinson, D S 1985 Chloroform fumigation and the release of soil nitrogen: A rapid direct extraction method to measure microbial biomass nitrogen in soil. Soil Biol. Biochem. 17, 837–842.

    Article  Google Scholar 

  9. Bryant, J P 1987 Feltleaf willow-snowshoe hare interactions: Plant carbon/nutrient balance and floodplain succession. Ecology 68, 1319–1327.

    Google Scholar 

  10. Bryant, J P, Chapin, F S and Klein, D R 1983 Carbon/nutrient balance of boreal plants in relation to vertebrate herbivory. Oikos 40, 357–368.

    Google Scholar 

  11. Chapin, F S, Bloom, A J, Field, C B and Waring, R H 1987 Plant responses to multiple environmental factors. BioScience 37, 49–57.

    Google Scholar 

  12. D'Elia, C F, Steudler, P A and Corwin, N 1977 Determination of total nitrogen in aqueous samples using persulfate digestion. Limnol. Oceanog. 22, 760–764.

    Google Scholar 

  13. Dudley J 1992 Secondary succession and nitrogen availability in coastal heathlands. Doctoral dissertation, Department of Biology, Boston University, Boston, MA. 349 p.

  14. El SayedAzhar, Verhe, R, Proot, M, Sandra, P and Verstraete, W 1989. Fixation of nitrite nitrogen during the humification of α-naphthol in soil suspensions. J. Agric. Food Chem. 37, 262–266.

    Article  Google Scholar 

  15. Gallardo, A and Schlesinger, W H 1990 Estimating microbial biomass nitrogen using the fumigation-incubation and fumigation-extraction methods in a warm-temperate forest soil. Soil Biol. Biochem. 22, 927–932.

    Article  Google Scholar 

  16. Haines, B L 1977 Nitrogen uptake: Apparent pattern during old field succession in Southeastern U.S. Oecologia (Berlin) 26, 295–303.

    Article  Google Scholar 

  17. Haynes, R J and Goh, K M 1978 Ammonium and nitrate nutrition of plants. Biol. Rev. 53, 465–510.

    Article  Google Scholar 

  18. Hobbs, N T and Schimel, D S 1984 Fire effects on nitrogen mineralization and fixation in mountain shrub and grassland communities. J. Range Manage. 37, 402–405.

    Google Scholar 

  19. Horner, J D, Gosz, J R and Cates, R G 1988 The role of carbon-based plant secondary metabolites in decomposition in terrestrial ecosystems. Amer. Nat. 132, 869–883.

    Article  Google Scholar 

  20. Lamb, D 1980 Soil nitrogen mineralisation in a secondary rainforest succession. Oecologia (Berlin) 47, 257–263.

    Article  Google Scholar 

  21. Lodhi, M A K 1979 Inhibition of nitrifying bacteria, nitrification and mineralization spoil soils as related to their successional stages. Bull Toreey Bot. Club 106, 284–289.

    Google Scholar 

  22. Lowther, J R 1980 Use of a single sulfuric acid-hydrogen peroxide digest for the analysis of Pinus radiata needles. Commun. Soil Sci. Plant Anal. 11, 175–188.

    Google Scholar 

  23. McCarty, G W and Bremner, J M 1986 Effects of phenolic compounds on nitrification in soil. Soil Sci. Soc. Am. J. 50, 920–923.

    Google Scholar 

  24. McClaugherty, C A, Pastor, J, Aber, J D and Melillo, J M 1985 Forest litter decomposition in relation to soil nitrogen dynamics and litter quality. Ecology 66, 266–275.

    Google Scholar 

  25. McLean, E O 1982 Soil pH and lime requirement. In Methods of Soil Analysis, Part 2. Chemical and Microbiological Properties. Ed. A LPage. American Society of Agronomy and Soil Science Society of America, Madison, WI.

    Google Scholar 

  26. Meentemeyer, V 1978 Macroclimate and lignin control of litter decomposition rates. Ecology 59, 465–472.

    Google Scholar 

  27. Mole, S and Waterman, P G 1987 A critical analysis of techniques for measuring tannins in ecological studies. I. Techniques for chemically defining tannins. Oecologia (Berlin) 72, 137–147.

    Article  Google Scholar 

  28. Montes, R A and Christensen, N L 1977 Nitrification and succession inthe Piedmont of North Carolina. Forest Sci. 25, 287–297.

    Google Scholar 

  29. Nadelhoffer, K J, Aber, J D and Melillo, J M 1983 Leaf litter production and soil organic matter dynamics along a nitrogen availability gradient in Southern Wisconsin (USA). Can. J. For. Res. 13, 12–21.

    Google Scholar 

  30. Nadelhoffer, K J, Aber, J D and Melillo, J M 1984 Seasonal patterns of nitrate and ammonium uptake in nine temperate forest ecosystems. Plant and Soil 80, 321–335.

    Article  Google Scholar 

  31. Oldale R N 1985 Geologic map of Nantucket and nearby islands, Massachusetts Department of Interior. USGS. Map I-1580.

  32. Olson, R K and Riners, W A 1983 Nitrification in subalpine balsam fir soils: Tests for inhibitory factors. Soil Biol. Biochem. 15, 413–418.

    Article  Google Scholar 

  33. Pastor, J, Aber, J D, McClaugherty, C A and Melillo, J M 1984 Aboveground production and N and P cycling along a N mineralization gradient on Blackhawk Island. Wisconsin. Ecology 65, 256–268.

    Google Scholar 

  34. Pastor, J and Post, W M 1986 Influence of climate, soil moisture, and succession on forest carbon and nitrogen cycles. Biogeochemistry 2, 3–27.

    Article  Google Scholar 

  35. Rice, E L and Pancholy, S K 1972 Inhibition of nitrification by climax ecosystems. Am. J. Bot. 59, 1033–1040.

    Google Scholar 

  36. Rice, E L and Pancholy, S K 1973 Inhibition of nitrification by climax ecosystems. II. Additional evidence and possbile role of tannins. Am. J. Bot. 60, 691–702.

    Google Scholar 

  37. Riha, S J, Campbell, G S and Wolfe, J 1986 A model of competition for ammonium among heterotrophs, nitrifiers, and roots. Soil Sci. Soc. Am. J. 50, 1463–1466.

    Google Scholar 

  38. Roberston, G P 1982a Factors regulating nitrification in primary and secondary succession. Ecology 63, 1561–1573.

    Google Scholar 

  39. Robertson, G P 1982b Nitrification in forested ecosystesm. Phil. Trans. Royal Soc. London, B. 296, 445–457.

    Google Scholar 

  40. Robertson, G P and Vitousek, P M 1981 Nitrification potentials in primary and secondary succession. Ecology 62, 376–386.

    Google Scholar 

  41. SAS 1984 SAS Institute, Inc., Cary, NC. Release 5.18.

  42. Scientific Instruments 1987a Block digestor total Kjeldahl nitrogen in water. Scientific Instruments, Inc., Hawthorne, NY.

    Google Scholar 

  43. Scientific Instruments 1987b Method for the analysis of nitrate-N and nitrite-N in water and wastewater. Technical Bulletin.

  44. Scientific Instruments 1987c Method for the analysis of ammonium-N in water and wastewater. Technical Bulletin.

  45. Shen, S M, Pruden, G and Jenkinson, D S 1984 Mineralization and immobilization of nitrogen in fumigated soil and the measurement of microbial biomass nitrogen. Soil Biol. Biochem. 16, 437–444.

    Article  Google Scholar 

  46. Smith, J L and Rice, E L 1983 Differences in nitrate reductase activity between species of different stages in old field succession. Oecologia (Berlin) 57, 43–48.

    Article  Google Scholar 

  47. Stanford, G and Smith, S J 1972 Nitrogen mineralization potentials of soils. Proc. Soil Sci. Soc. Am. 36, 465–472.

    Google Scholar 

  48. Stevenson, F J 1986 Cycles of Soil. Wiley, New York.

    Google Scholar 

  49. Todd, R L, Swank, W T, Douglass, J E, Kerr, P C, Brockway, D L and Monk, C D 1975 The relationship between nitrate concentration in the southern Appalachian mountain streams and terrestrial nitrifiers. Agro-ecosystems 2, 127–132.

    Article  Google Scholar 

  50. VanMiegroet, H, Johnson, D W and Cole, D W 1990 Soil nitrification as affected by N fertility and changes in forest floor C/N ratio in four forest soils. Can. J. For. Res. 20, 1012–1019.

    Google Scholar 

  51. Vitousek, P M, Gosz, J R, Grier, C C, Melillo, J M and Reiners, W A 1982 A comparative analysis of potential nitrification and nitrate mobility in forest ecosystems. Ecol. Mon. 52, 155–177.

    Google Scholar 

  52. Vitousek, P M and Reiners, W A 1975 Ecosystem succession and nutrient retention: A hypothesis. BioScience 25, 376–381.

    Google Scholar 

  53. Walker E H 1980 Water resources of Nantucket Island, MA. USGS. Hydrologic Investigation Atlas HA-615.

  54. White, C S 1986 Volatile and water-soluble inhibitors of nitrogen mineralization and nitrification in a ponderosa pine ecosystem. Biol. Fertil. Soils 2, 97–104.

    Google Scholar 

Download references

Author information

Affiliations

Authors

Rights and permissions

Reprints and Permissions

About this article

Cite this article

Barford, C., Lajtha, K. Nitrification and nitrate reductase activity along a secondary successional gradient. Plant Soil 145, 1–10 (1992). https://doi.org/10.1007/BF00009535

Download citation

Key words

  • forest
  • grass
  • litter chemistry
  • nitrate reductase activity
  • nitrification
  • successional gradient