Plant and Soil

, Volume 423, Issue 1–2, pp 59–85 | Cite as

Effects of soil nitrogen availability on rhizodeposition in plants: a review

  • Alan W. BowsherEmail author
  • Sarah Evans
  • Lisa K. Tiemann
  • Maren L. Friesen
Regular Article



Soil contains the majority of terrestrial carbon (C), forming the foundation for soil fertility and nutrient cycling. One key source of soil C is root-derived C, or rhizodeposits, which signal and sustain microbes that cycle nutrients such as nitrogen (N). Although N availability can affect rhizodeposition both quantitatively and qualitatively, these effects remain poorly understood due to conflicting results among studies.


Here, we review studies examining the influence of soil N availability on rhizodeposition. We conduct a quantitative analysis of the response of various rhizodeposition C pools to N availability, and assess methodological aspects potentially underlying the highly variable results among studies. We also review impacts of N availability on the composition and quality of rhizodeposits.


Effects of N on rhizodeposition were strongly dependent upon the specific C pools considered and the units for reporting those pools. N additions increased nearly all rhizodeposit C pools when expressed on a per plant basis, and decreased rhizodeposition per unit fixed C for several C pools, while no rhizodeposition C pools were significantly altered when expressed per unit root mass. Nevertheless, N effects were generally mixed due to a combination of variation in experimental methods and species-specific responses. Overall, our review indicates several key challenges for better understanding the mechanistic links between N availability, plant physiology, and microbial function. Identifying such links would substantially improve our ability to predict C- and N-dynamics in changing ecosystems.


Isotope labeling Nutrient cycling Root-derived carbon inputs Root exudation 



This research was supported by the Office of Science (BER), U.S. Department of Energy, grant no. DE-SC0014108. We would also like to acknowledge three anonymous reviewers for their constructive feedback which greatly improved the quality of this manuscript.

Compliance with ethical standards

Conflict of interest

The authors declare that they have no conflict of interest.

Supplementary material

11104_2017_3497_MOESM1_ESM.xlsx (58 kb)
ESM 1 (XLSX 58 kb)
11104_2017_3497_MOESM2_ESM.pdf (133 kb)
ESM 2 (PDF 133 kb)


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Copyright information

© Springer International Publishing AG, part of Springer Nature 2017

Authors and Affiliations

  • Alan W. Bowsher
    • 1
    Email author
  • Sarah Evans
    • 2
  • Lisa K. Tiemann
    • 3
  • Maren L. Friesen
    • 1
    • 4
  1. 1.Department of Plant BiologyMichigan State UniversityEast LansingUSA
  2. 2.Kellogg Biological StationHickory CornersUSA
  3. 3.Department of Plant, Soil, and Microbial SciencesMichigan State UniversityEast LansingUSA
  4. 4.Department of Plant Pathology and Department of Crop and Soil SciencesWashington State UniversityPullmanUSA

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