Plant and Soil

, Volume 394, Issue 1–2, pp 407–420

Native plants and nitrogen in agricultural landscapes of New Zealand

  • Hannah M. Franklin
  • Nicholas M. Dickinson
  • Cyril J. D. Esnault
  • Brett H. Robinson
Regular Article

DOI: 10.1007/s11104-015-2622-2

Cite this article as:
Franklin, H.M., Dickinson, N.M., Esnault, C.J.D. et al. Plant Soil (2015) 394: 407. doi:10.1007/s11104-015-2622-2


Background and Aims

The Canterbury Plains of the South Island, New Zealand are being converted to intensive dairy farming; native vegetation now occupies < 0.5 % of the area. Reintroducing native species into nutrient-rich systems could provide economic, environmental and ecological benefits. However, native species are adapted to low nitrogen (N) environments. We aimed to determine the growth and N-uptake response of selected native species to elevated soil N loadings and elucidate the effect of these plants on the N speciation in soil.


Plant growth, N-uptake, and N speciation in rhizosphere soil of selected native species and Lolium perenne (ryegrass, as reference) were measured in greenhouse and field trials.


At restoration sites, several native species had similar foliar N concentrations to ryegrass. Deciduous (and N-fixing) species had highest concentrations. There was significant inter-species variation in soil mineral N concentrations in native plant rhizospheres, differing substantially to the ryegrass root-zone. Pot trials revealed that native species tolerated high N-loadings, although there was a negligible growth response. Among the native plants, monocot species assimilated most N. However, total N assimilation by ryegrass would exceed native species at field productivity rates.


Selected native plant species could contribute to the sustainable management of N in intensive agricultural landscapes.


Biodiversity Dairy farming Nitrate leaching Nitrogen Rhizosphere Soil 

Copyright information

© Springer International Publishing Switzerland 2015

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Department of EcologyLincoln UniversityLincolnNew Zealand
  2. 2.Department of Soil and Physical SciencesLincoln UniversityLincolnNew Zealand

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