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Variation in protein complexation capacity among and within six plant species across a boreal forest chronosequence

Abstract

We investigated among and within species variation in several litter chemical properties, including protein complexation capacity (PCC), for six plant species across a boreal forest chronosequence in northern Sweden across which stand fertility declines sharply with stand age. We hypothesized (1) that evergreen species which dominate in late-successional stands would exhibit higher PCCs than deciduous species that dominate in young stands, (2) that individual species would increase their PCCs in response to nutrient limitation as succession proceeds, and (3) that differences in PCC among litter types would determine their interactive effects with proteins on soil N and C mineralization. The data demonstrated a high PCC, but a low PCC per unit of soluble phenol, for two deciduous species that dominate in early-successional high fertility stands, providing mixed support for our first hypothesis. No species demonstrated a significant correlation between their PCC and stand age, which did not support our second hypothesis. Finally, a soil incubation assay revealed that litter extracts for three of the six species had negative interactive effects with added proteins on N mineralization rates, and that all six species demonstrated positive interactive effects with protein on C mineralization. This pattern did not provide strong support for our third hypothesis, and suggests that N immobilization was likely a more important factor regulating N mineralization than stabilization of proteins into tannin complexes. These data suggest that multiple interactive mechanisms between litter extracts and proteins likely occur simultaneously to influence the availability of N in soils.

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Acknowledgments

The authors wish to thank Helena Gustafsson for her help with field and laboratory work, and Prof. Tom DeLuca and Maja Sundqvist for helpful comments on an earlier draft of this manuscript. We acknowledge the Swedish Research Council FORMAS for funding this work.

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Correspondence to Michael J. Gundale.

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Gundale, M.J., Sverker, J., Albrectsen, B.R. et al. Variation in protein complexation capacity among and within six plant species across a boreal forest chronosequence. Plant Ecol 211, 253–266 (2010). https://doi.org/10.1007/s11258-010-9787-9

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  • DOI: https://doi.org/10.1007/s11258-010-9787-9

Keywords

  • Protein complexation
  • N mineralization
  • Litter
  • Succession
  • Polyphenols
  • Tannins
  • Chronosequence
  • Decomposition