Background and aims
Litter decomposition is regulated by e.g. substrate quality and environmental factors, particularly water availability. The partitioning of nutrients released from litter between vegetation and soil microorganisms may, therefore, be affected by changing climate. This study aimed to elucidate the impact of litter type and drought on the fate of litter-derived N in beech seedlings and soil microbes.
We quantified 15N recovery rates in plant and soil N pools by adding 15N-labelled leaf and/or root litter under controlled conditions.
Root litter was favoured over leaf litter for N acquisition by beech seedlings and soil microorganisms. Drought reduced 15N recovery from litter in seedlings thereby affecting root N nutrition. 15N accumulated in seedlings in different sinks depending on litter type.
Root turnover appears to influence (a) N availability in the soil for plants and soil microbes and (b) N acquisition and retention despite a presumably extremely dynamic turnover of microbial biomass. Compared to soil microorganisms, beech seedlings represent a very minor short-term N sink, despite a potentially high N residence time. Furthermore, soil microbes constitute a significant N pool that can be released in the long term and, thus, may become available for N nutrition of plants.
This is a preview of subscription content, log in to check access.
Buy single article
Instant access to the full article PDF.
Price includes VAT for USA
Subscribe to journal
Immediate online access to all issues from 2019. Subscription will auto renew annually.
This is the net price. Taxes to be calculated in checkout.
Backes K, Leuschner C (2000) Leaf water relations of competitive Fagus sylvatica and Quercus petraea trees during 4 years differing in soil drought. Can J For Res 30:335–346
Baldwin IT, Olson RK, Reiners WA (1983) Protein binding phenolics and the inhibition of nitrification in subalpine balsam fir soils. Soil Biol Biochem 15:419–423
Borken W, Matzner E (2009) Reappraisal of drying and wetting effects on C and N mineralization and fluxes in soils. Glob Chang Biol 15:808–824
Brooks PD, Stark JM, McInteer BB, Preston T (1989) Diffusion method to prepare soil extracts for automated nitrogen-15 analysis. Soil Sci Soc Am J 53:1707–1711
Buchmann N, Gebauer G, Schulze ED (1996) Partitioning of 15N-labeled ammonium and nitrate among soil, litter, below- and above-ground biomass of trees and understory in a 15-year old Picea abies plantation. Biogeochemistry 33:1–23
Chapman SK, Langley JA, Hart SC, Koch GW (2006) Plant actively control nitrogen cycling: uncorking the micronial bottleneck. New Phytol 169:27–34
Dannenmann M, Simon J, Gasche R, Holst J, Naumann PS, Kögel-Knabner I, Knicker H, Mayer H, Schloter M, Pena R, Polle A, Rennenberg H, Papen H (2009) Tree girdling provides insight on the role of labile carbon in nitrogen partitioning between soil microorganisms and adult European beech. Soil Biol Biochem 41:1622–1631
Dyckmans J, Flessa H, Brinkmann K, Mai C, Polle A (2002) Carbon and nitrogen dynamics in acid detergent fibre lignins of beech (Fagus sylvatica L.) during the growth phase. Plant Cell Environ 25:469–478
Ellenberg H (1996) Vegetation Mitteleuropas mit den Alpen, 5th edn. Ulmer, Stuttgart
Ericsson T (1994) Nutrient dynamics and requirements of forest crops. N Z J For Sci 24:133–168
Farquhar GD, Richards RA (1984) Isotope composition of plant carbon: correlations with water-use efficiency of wheat cultivars. Aust J Plant Physiol 11:539–552
Field JA, Lettina G (1992) Toxicity of tannic compounds to microorganisms. In: Hemingway RW, Laks PE (eds) Plant polyphenols. Synthesis, properties, significance. Plenum Press, New York, pp 673–692
Fotelli MN, Nahm M, Heidenfelder A, Papen H, Rennenberg H, Gessler A (2002) Soluble nonprotein nitrogen compounds indicate changes in the nitrogen status of beech seedlings due to climate and thinning. New Phytol 154:85–97
Fotelli MN, Rennenberg H, Holst T, Mayer H, Gessler A (2003) Carbon isotope composition of various tissues of beech (Fagus sylvatica) regeneration is indicative of recent environmental conditions within the forest understorey. New Phytol 159:229–244
Fotelli MN, Rienks M, Rennenberg H, Gessler A (2004) Climate and forest management affect 15N uptake, N balance and biomass of European beech (Fagus sylvatica L.) seedlings. Trees 18:157–166
Gallet C, Lebreton P (1995) Evolution of phenolic patterns in plants and associated litters and humus of a mountain forest ecosystem. Soil Biol Biochem 27:157–165
Gessler A, Keitel C, Kreuzwieser J, Matyssek R, Seiler W, Rennenberg H (2007) Potential risks for European beech (Fagus sylvatica L.) in a changing climate. Trees 21:1–11
Hagerman AE, Riedl KM, Jones GA, Sovik KN, Ritchard NT, Hartzfeld PW, Riechel TL (1998) High molecular weight plant polyphenolics (tannins) as biological antioxidants. J Agric Food Chem 46:1887–1892
Hättenschwiler S, Vitousek PM (2000) The role of polyphenols in terrestrial ecosystem nutrient cycling. Trends Ecol Evol 15:238–243
Hinsinger P, Bengough G, Vetterlein D, Young IM (2009) Rhizosphere: biophysics, biogeochemistry and ecological relevance. Plant Soil 321:117–152
Hodge A, Robinson D, Fitter A (2000) Are microorganisms more effective than plants at competing for nitrogen? Trends Plant Sci 5:304–308
Horner JD, Gosz JR, Cates RG (1988) The role of carbon-based plant secondary metabolites in decomposition in terrestrial ecosystems. Am Nat 132:869–883
Hu Y, Schmidhalter U (2005) Drought and salinity: a comparison of their effects on mineral nutrition of plants. J Plant Nutr Soil Sci 168:541–549
IPCC (2007) Climate change 2007: Impacts, adaptation and vulnerability. In: Parry ML, Canziani OF, Palutikof JP, van der Linden PJ, Hanson CE (eds) Contribution of working group II to the fourth assessment report of the intergovernmental panel on climate change. Cambridge University Press, Cambridge
Kaye JP, Hart SC (1997) Competition for nitrogen between plants and soil microorganisms. Trends Ecol Evol 12:139–143
Kleinebecker T, Schmidt SR, Fritz C, Smolders AJP, Hölzel N (2009) Prediction of d13C and d15N in plant tissues with near-infrared reflectance spectroscopy. New Phytol 184:732–739
Kraus TEC, Dahlgren RA, Zasoski RJ (2003) Tannins in nutrient dynamics of forest ecosystems—a review. Plant Soil 256:41–66
Kreuzwieser J, Gessler A (2010) Global climate change and tree nutrition: influence of water availability. Tree Physiol 30:1221–1234
Lamontagne S, Schiff SL, Elgood RJ (2000) Recovery of 15N-labeled nitrate applied to a small upland boreal forest catchment. Can J For Res 30:1165–1177
Li C (2000) Carbon isotope composition, water-use efficiency and biomass productivity of Eucalyptus microtheca populations under different water supplies. Plant Soil 214:165–171
Liu X, Grams TEE, Matyssek R, Rennenberg H (2005) Effects of elevated pCO2 and/or pO3 on C-N, and S-metabolites in the leaves of juvenile beech and spruce differ between trees grown in monoculture and mixed culture. Plant Physiol Biochem 43:147–154
Nadelhoffer KJ, Colman BP, Currie WS, Magill A, Aber JD (2004) Decadal-scale fates of 15N tracers added to oak and pine stand under ambient and elevated N inputs at the Harvard Forest (USA). Forest Ecol Manag 196:89–107
Nahm M, Holst T, Matzarakis A, Mayer H, Rennenberg H, Gessler A (2006) Soluble N compound profiles and concentrations in European beech (Fagus sylvatica L.) are influenced by local climate and thinning. Eur J Forest Res 125:1–14
Näsholm T, Ekblad A, Nordin A, Giesler R, Högberg M, Högberg P (1998) Boreal forest plants take up organic nitrogen. Nature 392:914–916
Näsholm T, Kielland K, Ganeteg U (2009) Uptake of organic nitrogen by plants. New Phytol 182:31–48
Northup RR, Dahlgren RA, McColl JG (1998) Polyphenols as regulators of plant-litter-soil interactions in northern California’s pygmy forest: a positive feedback? Biogeochemistry 42:189–220
O’Neill EG, Johnson DW, Ledford J, Todd DE (2003) Drought does not permanently alter mass loss and nitrogen dynamics during decomposition of red maple (Acer rubrum L.) litter. Glob Chang Biol 9:117–123
Olson RK, Reiners WA (1983) Nitrification in subalpine balsam fir soils: tests for inhibitory factors. Soil Biol Biochem 15:413–418
Parton W, Silver WL, Burke I, Grassens L, Harmon ME, Currie WS, King JY, Adair EC, Brandt LA, Hart SC, Fasth B (2007) Global-scale similarities in nitrogen release patterns during long-term decomposition. Science 315(5810):361–364
Paul A (2007) Soil microbiology, ecology, and biochemistry, 3rd edn. Academic, Oxford
Peuke AD, Schraml C, Hartung W, Rennenberg H (2002) Identification of drought-sensitive beech ecotypes by physiological parameters. New Phytol 154:373–387
Providoli I, Bugmann H, Siegwolf R, Buchmann N, Schleppi P (2006) Pathways and dynamics of 15NO3 − and 15NH4 + applied in a mountain Picea abies forest and in a nearby meadow in central Switzerland. Soil Biol Biochem 38:1645–1657
Rennenberg H, Loreto F, Polle A, Brilli F, Fares S, Beniwal RS, Gessler A (2006) Physiological responses of forest trees to heat and drought. Plant Biol 8:556–571
Rennenberg H, Dannenmann M, Gessler A, Kreuzwieser J, Simon J, Papen H (2009) Nitrogen balance in forests: nutritional limitation of plants under climate change stresses. Plant Biol 11:S4–S23
Satti P, Mazzarino MJ, Gobbi M, Funes F, Roselli L, Fernandez H (2003) Soil N dynamics in relation to leaf litter quality and soil fertility in north-western Patagonian forests. J Ecol 91:173–181
Scalbert A (1991) Antimicrobial properties of tannins. Phytochemistry 30:3875–3883
Schimel JP, Cates RG, Ruess R (1998) The role of balsam poplar secondary chemicals in controlling soil nutrient dynamics through succession in the Alaskan taiga. Biogeochemistry 42:221–234
Shvaleva AL, Costa F, Silva E, Breia E, Jouve L, Hausman JF, Almeida MH, Maroco JP, Rodrigues ML, Pereira JS, Chaves MM (2005) Metabolic responses to water deficit in two Eucalyptus globulus clones with contrasting drought sensitivity. Tree Physiol 26:239–248
Silver WL, Miya RK (2001) Global patterns in root decomposition: comparisons of climate and litter quality. Oecologia 129:407–419
Simon J, Waldhecker P, Brüggemann N, Rennenberg H (2010) Competition for nitrogen resources between beech and sycamore maple seedlings. Plant Biol 12:453–458
Sivapalan K (1981) Phenolics and the exchange capacity of humic materials. Soil Biol Biochem 13:331–333
Stoelken G, Pritsch K, Simon J, Müller C, Grams T, Esperschütz J, Gayler S, Buegger F, Brüggemann N, Meier R, Zeller B, Winkler JB, Rennenberg H (2010) Enhanced ozone exposure of European beech (Fagus sylvatica) stimulates nitrogen mobilisation from leaf litter and nitrogen accumulation in the soil. Plant Biosyst 144:537–546
Van den Driessche R (1984) Nutrient storage, retranslocation and relationship of stress to nutrition. In: Bowen GD, Nambiar EKS (eds) Nutrition of plantation forests. Academic, Orlando, pp 181–209
Winkler JB, Dannenmann M, Sternad W, Pena R, Clemenz C, Naumann PS, Kögel-Knabner I, Simon J, Rennenberg H, Polle A (2010) Carbon and nitrogen balance in beech roots under different competitive pressure of soil-born microorganisms induced by girdling, drought and glucose application. Funct Plant Biol 37:879–889
Winter H, Lohaus G, Heldt W (1992) Phloem transport of amino acids in relation to their cytosolic levels in barley leaves. Plant Physiol 99:996–1004
Wu H, Dannenmann M, Fanselow N, Wolf B, Yao Z, Wu X, Brüggemann N, Zheng X, Han X, Dittert K, Butterbach-Bahl K (2011) Feedback of grazing on gross rates of N mineralization and inorganic N partitioning in steppe soils of Inner Mongolia. Plant Soil 340:127–139
Zeller B, Colin-Belgrand M, Dambrine E, Martin F (1998) 15N partitioning and production of 15N-labelled litter in beech trees following [15N]urea spray. Ann For Sci 55:375–383
Zeller B, Colin-Belgrand M, Dambrine E, Martin F, Bottner P (2000) Decomposition of 15N-labelled leaf litter and fate of nitrogen derived from litter in a beech forest. Oecologia 125:550–559
Zeller B, Colin-Belgrand M, Dambrine E, Martin F (2001) Fate of nitrogen released from 15N-labelled litter in European beech forests. Tree Physiol 21:153–162
This work was funded by the German Research Foundation / Deutsche Forschungsgemeinschaft (DFG) within the framework of the Beech Research Group under contract numbers FOR 788/1, RE 515/27-1, PO 362/17-1, and DA 1217/2-1. C.G. was financially supported by a scholarship from the China Scholarship Council (no. 2007U27036). Judy Simon was financially supported by the European Social Fund and by the Ministry of Science, Research and the Arts Baden-Württemberg. Furthermore, we thank Merle Fastenrath, Regina Wiegel and Elisabeth Zumbusch for expert assistance during the experiment.
Responsible Editor: Katja Klumpp.
About this article
Cite this article
Guo, C., Dannenmann, M., Gasche, R. et al. Preferential use of root litter compared to leaf litter by beech seedlings and soil microorganisms. Plant Soil 368, 519–534 (2013). https://doi.org/10.1007/s11104-012-1521-z
- Litter types
- Root litter
- Leaf litter
- Microbial biomass
- Plant N metabolism
- Soil N pools
- 15N recovery