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Heterotrophic nitrification is the predominant NO3 production pathway in acid coniferous forest soil in subtropical China


To date, occurrence and stimulation of different nitrification pathways in acidic soils remains unclear. Laboratory incubation experiments, using the acetylene inhibition and 15N tracing methods, were conducted to study the relative importance of heterotrophic and autotrophic nitrification in two acid soils (arable (AR) and coniferous forest) in subtropical China, and to verify the reliability of the 15N tracing model. The gross rate of autotrophic nitrification was 2.28 mg kg−1 day−1, while that of the heterotrophic nitrification (0.01 mg kg−1 day−1) was negligible in the AR soil. On the contrary, the gross rate of autotrophic nitrification was very low (0.05 mg kg−1 day−1) and the heterotrophic nitrification (0.98 mg kg−1 day−1) was the predominant NO3 production pathway accounting for more than 95 % of the total nitrification in the coniferous forest soil. Our results showed that the 15N tracing model was reliable when used to study soil N transformation in acid subtropical soils.

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This work was supported by grants from the National Natural Science Foundation of China 41101209, 41222005 and 40830531, the Natural Science Foundation of Jiangsu Province (BK2010611 and SBK201220477), and the Priority Academic Program Development of Jiangsu Higher Education Institutions.

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Correspondence to Jinbo Zhang or Zucong Cai.

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Zhang, Y., Zhang, J., Meng, T. et al. Heterotrophic nitrification is the predominant NO3 production pathway in acid coniferous forest soil in subtropical China. Biol Fertil Soils 49, 955–957 (2013).

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