, Volume 61, Issue 2, pp 173–198 | Cite as

Contribution of amino compounds to dissolved organic nitrogen in forest soils

  • Z. Yu
  • Q. Zhang
  • T.E.C. Kraus
  • R.A. Dahlgren
  • C. Anastasio
  • R.J. Zasoski


Dissolved organic nitrogen (DON) may play an important role in plantnutrition and nitrogen fluxes in forest ecosystems. In spite of the apparentimportance of DON, there is a paucity of information concerning its chemicalcomposition. However, it is exactly this chemical characterization that isrequired to understand the importance of DON in ecosystem processes. Theprimaryobjective of this study was to characterize the distribution of free aminoacidsand hydrolyzable peptides/proteins in the DON fraction of Oa horizon leachatesalong an extreme edaphic gradient in northern California. Insitu soil solutions were extracted by centrifugation from Oahorizonscollected beneath Pinus muricata (Bishop pine) andCupressus pygmaea (pygmy cypress) on slightlyacidic/fertile and highly acidic/infertile sites. DON accounted for 77 to99% of the total dissolved nitrogen in Oa horizon leachates. Nitrogen infree amino acids and alkyl amines ranged from 0.04–0.07 mgN/L on the low fertility site to 0.45–0.49 mg N/L onthe high fertility site, and accounted for 1.5 to 10.6% of the DON fraction.Serine, glutamic acid, leucine, ornithine, alanine, aspartic acid andmethylamine were generally the most abundant free amino compounds. Combinedamino acids released by acid hydrolysis accounted for 48 to 74% of theDON, suggesting that proteins and peptides were the main contributor to DON inOa horizon leachates. Together, nitrogen from free andcombined amino compounds accounted for 59 to 78% of the DON. Most of theDON was found in the hydrophobic fraction, which suggests the presence ofprotein/peptide-polyphenol complexes or amino compounds associated withhumic substances. Because free and combined amino acids can be an importantnitrogen source for some plants, soil DON may play an important role in plantnutrition and ecosystem function.

Amino acids Dissolved organic nitrogen Nitrogen Nutrient cycling Polyphenols Proteins 


Unable to display preview. Download preview PDF.

Unable to display preview. Download preview PDF.


  1. Abuzinadah R.A. andRead D.J. 1986a. The role of proteins in the nitrogen nutrition of ectomycorrhizal plants. I. Utilization of peptides and proteins by ectomycorrhizal fungi. New Phytol. 103: 481-493.Google Scholar
  2. Abuzinadah R.A. andRead D.J. 1986b. The role of proteins in the nitrogen nutrition of ectomycorrhizal plants. III. Protein utilization by Betula, Picea and Pinus in mycorrhizal association with Hebeloma crustuliniforme. New Phytol. 103: 507-514.Google Scholar
  3. Abuzinadah R.A. andRead D.J. 1989. The role of proteins in the nitrogen nutrition of ectomycorrhizal plants. IV. The utilization of peptides by birch (Betula pendula L.) infected with different mycorrhizal fungi. New Phytol. 112: 55-60.Google Scholar
  4. Arheimer B.,Andersson L. andLepisto A. 1996. Variation of nitrogen concentration in forest streams-influence of flow, seasonality and catchment characteristics. J. Hydrol. 197: 281-304.Google Scholar
  5. Bajwa R. andRead D.J. 1985. The biology of mycorrhiza in the Ericaceae. IX. Peptides as nitrogen sources for the ericoid endophyte and for mycorrhizal and non-mycorrhizal plants. New Phytol. 101: 459-467.Google Scholar
  6. Bending G.D. andRead D.J. 1996. Nitrogen mobilization from protein-polyphenol complex by ericoid and ectomycorrhizal fungi. Soil Biol. Biochem. 28: 1603-1612.Google Scholar
  7. Campbell J.L.,Hornbeck J.W.,McDowell W.H.,Buso D.C.,Shanley J.B. andLikens G.E. 2000. Dissolved organic nitrogen budgets for upland, forested ecosystems in New England. Biogeochem. 49: 123-142.Google Scholar
  8. Carlson R.M. 1978. Automated separation and conductimetric determination of ammonia and dissolved carbon dioxide. Anal. Chem. 50: 1528-1531.Google Scholar
  9. Carlson R.M. 1986. Continuous flow reduction of nitrate to ammonia with granular zinc. Anal. Chem. 58: 1590-1591.Google Scholar
  10. Chapin F.S. 1995. New cog in the nitrogen cycle. Nature 377: 199-200.Google Scholar
  11. Chapin F.S.,Moilanen L. andKielland K. 1993. Preferential use of organic nitrogen for growth by a non-mycorrhizal arctic sedge. Nature 361: 150-153.Google Scholar
  12. Chapman P.J.,Edwards A.C.,Reynolds B.,Cresser M.S. andNeal C. 1998. The nitrogen content of rivers in upland Britain: The significance of organic nitrogen. IAHS Publ. No. 248. In: Hydrology, Water Resources and Ecology in Headwaters, Proceedings of HeadWater' 98 Conference, April 1998. Meran/Merano, Italy, 443-450.Google Scholar
  13. Confer D.R.,Logan B.E.,Aiken B.S. andKirchman D.L. 1995. Measurement of dissolved free and combined amino acids in unconcentrated wastewaters using high performance liquid chromatography. Water Environ. Res. 67: 120-125.Google Scholar
  14. Dahlgren R.A. 1993. Comparison of soil solution extraction procedures: effects on solute chemistry. Comm. Soil Sci. Plant Anal. 24: 1783-1794.Google Scholar
  15. Dahlgren R.A. andUgolini F.C. 1989. Aluminum fractionation of soil solutions from unperturbed and tephra-treated Spodosols, Cascade Range, Washington, USA. Soil Sci. Soc. Am. J. 53: 559-566.Google Scholar
  16. Fahey T. andYavitt J. 1988. Soil solution chemistry in lodgepole pine (Pinus contorta ssp. latifolia) ecosystems, southeastern Wyoming, USA. Biogeochem 6: 91-118.Google Scholar
  17. Finlay R.D.,Frostegard A. andSonnerfeldt A.M. 1992. Utilization of organic and inorganic nitrogen sources by ectomycorrhizal fungi in pure culture and in symbiosis with Pinus contorta. Dougl. Ex Loud. New Phytol. 120: 105-115.Google Scholar
  18. Griffiths P. andCaldwell B. 1992. Mycorrhizal mat communities in forest soils. In: Read D.,Lewis D.,Fitter A. andAlexander I. (eds), Mycorrhizas in Ecosystems. CAB International, Wallingford, 98-105.Google Scholar
  19. Gupta U.C. andReuszer H.W. 1967. Effect of plant species on the amino acid content and nitrification of soil organic matter. Soil Sci. 104: 395-400.Google Scholar
  20. Hagedorn F.,Schleppi P.,Waldner P. andFluhler H. 2000. Export of dissolved organic carbon and nitrogen from Gleysol dominated catchments-the significance of water flow paths. Biogeochem. 50: 137-161.Google Scholar
  21. Harriman R.,Curtis C. andEdwards A.C. 1998. An empirical approach for assessing the relationship between nitrogen deposition and nitrate leaching from upland catchments in the United Kingdom using runoff chemistry. Water Air Soil Pollut. 105: 193-203.Google Scholar
  22. Hedin L.O.,Armesto J.J. andJohnson A.H. 1995. Patterns of nutrient loss from unpolluted, old-growth temperate forests: Evaluation of biogeochemical theory. Ecology 76: 493-509.Google Scholar
  23. Jardine P.M.,Weber N.L. andMcCarthy J.F. 1989. Mechanism of dissolved organic carbon adsorption on soil. Soil Sci. Soc. Am. J. 53: 1378-1385.Google Scholar
  24. Jones B.N.,Paabo S. andStein S. 1981. Amino acid analysis and enzymatic sequence determination of peptides by an improved o-phthaldialdehyde precolumn labeling procedure. J. Liq. Chromatog. 4: 565-586.Google Scholar
  25. Kaiser K. andZech W. 1998. Soil dissolved organic matter sorption as influenced by organic and sesquioxide coatings and sorbed sulfate. Soil Sci. Soc. Amer. J. 62: 129-136.Google Scholar
  26. Keeney D.R. andBremner J.M. 1964. Effect of cultivation on nitrogen distribution in soils. Soil Sci. Soc. Am. Proc. 28: 653-656.Google Scholar
  27. Keil R.G. andKirchman D.L. 1991. Dissolved combined amino acids in marine waters as determined by a vapor-phase hydrolysis method. Marine Chem. 33: 243-259.Google Scholar
  28. Khan S.U. 1971. Nitrogen fractions in a gray wooded soil as influenced by long-term cropping systems and fertilizers. Can. J. Soil Sci. 51: 431-437.Google Scholar
  29. Kroeff E.P. andPietrzyk D.J. 1978. Investigation of the retention and separation of amino acids, peptides, and derivatives on porous copolymers by high performance liquid chromatography. Anal. Chem. 50: 502-511.Google Scholar
  30. Leake J.R. andRead D.J. 1989. Effects of phenolic compounds on nitrogen mobilisation by ericoid mycorrhizal systems. Agric. Ecosys. Environ. 29: 225-236.Google Scholar
  31. Leenheer J.A. andHuffman E.W.D. 1979. Analytical method for dissolved-organic carbon fractionation. U.S. Geological Survey, Water-Resources Investigations, 79-84.Google Scholar
  32. Lipson D.A.,Raab T.K.,Schmidt S.K. andMonson R.K. 1999. Variation in competitive abilities of plants and microbes for specific amino acids. Biol. Fertil. Soils 29: 257-261.Google Scholar
  33. Lytle C.R. andPerdue E.M. 1981. Free, proteinaceous, and humic-hound amino acids in river water containing high concentrations of aquatic humus. Environ. Sci. Technol. 15: 224-228.Google Scholar
  34. McHale M.R.,Mitchell M.J.,McDonnell J.J. andCirmo C.P. 2000. Nitrogen solutes in an Adirondack forested watershed: Importance of dissolved organic nitrogen. Biogeochem. 48: 165-184.Google Scholar
  35. Melin E. andNilsson H. 1953. Transfer of labeled nitrogen from glutamic acid to pine seedlings through the mycelium of Boletus variegarus (Sw) Fr. Nature 171: 134.Google Scholar
  36. Merritts D.J.,Chadwick O.A. andHendricks D.M. 1991. Rates and processes of soil evolution on uplifted marine terraces, northern California. Geoderma 51: 241-275.Google Scholar
  37. Michalzik B. andMatzner E. 1999. Dynamics of dissolved organic nitrogen and carbon in a Central European Norway spruce ecosystem. Eur. J. Soil Sci. 50: 579-590.Google Scholar
  38. Michalzik B.,Kalbitz K.,Park J.-H.,Solinger S. andMatzner E. 2001. Fluxes and concentrations of dissolved organic carbon and nitrogen-a synthesis for temperate forests. Biogeochem. 52: 173-205.Google Scholar
  39. Monreal C.M. andMcGill W.B. 1985. Centrifugal extraction and determination of free amino acids in soil solutions by TLC using tritiated 1-fluoro-2,4-dinitrobenzene. Soil Biol. Biochem. 17: 533-539.Google Scholar
  40. Näsholm T.,Ekblad A.,Nordin A.,Giesler R.,Högberg M. andHögberg P. 1998. Boreal forest plants take up organic nitrogen. Nature 392: 914-916.Google Scholar
  41. National Oceanic & Atmospheric Administration 1998-99. Local climatological data-monthly summary, Fort Bragg, California. National Climatic Data Center, Asheville, NC, US.Google Scholar
  42. Northup R.,Yu Z.,Dahlgren R.A. andVogt K. 1995. Polyphenol control of nitrogen release from pine litter. Nature 377: 227-229.Google Scholar
  43. Padgett P.E. andLeonard R.T. 1996. Free amino acid levels and the regulation of nitrate uptake in maize cell suspension cultures. J. Exp. Botany 47: 871-883.Google Scholar
  44. Prescott C.E. andWeetman G.F. 1994. Salal cedar hemlock integrated research program: A synthesis. Faculty of Forestry. University of British Columbia, Vancouver, B.C.Google Scholar
  45. Qualls R.G. 1989. The Biogeochemical Properties of Dissolved Organic Matter in the Soil and Streamwater of a Deciduous Forest Ecosystem: Their Influence on the Retention of Nitrogen, phosphorus, and Carbon. PhD Dissertation, University of Georgia, Athens, USA.Google Scholar
  46. Qualls R.G. andHaines B.L. 1991. Geochemistry of dissolved organic nutrients in water percolating through a forest ecosystem. Soil Sci. Soc. Am. J. 55: 1112-1123.Google Scholar
  47. Qualls R.G. andHaines B.L. 1992. Biodegradability of dissolved organic matter in forest throughfall, soil solution, and stream water. Soil Sci. Soc. Am. J. 56: 578-586.Google Scholar
  48. Raab T.K.,Lipson D.A. andMonson R.K. 1996. Non-mycorrhizal uptake of amino acids by roots of the alpine sedge Koresia myosuroides: implication for the alpine nitrogen cycle. Oecologia 108: 488-494.Google Scholar
  49. Raab T.K.,Lipson D.A. andMonson R.K. 1999. Soil amino acid utilization among species of the Cyperace: plant and soil processes. Ecology 80: 2408-2419.Google Scholar
  50. Read D.J. 1991. Mycorrhizas in ecosystems. Experientia 47: 376-391.Google Scholar
  51. Scalbert A.,Monties B. andJanin J. 1989. Tannin in wood: comparison of different estimation method. J. Agric. Food Chem. 37: 1324-1329.Google Scholar
  52. Schimel J.,Van Cleve K.,Cates R.,Clausen T. andReichardt P. 1996. Effects of balsam poplar (Populus balsamifera) tannins and low molecular weight phenolics on microbial activity in taiga floodplain soil: Implications for changes in N cycling during succession. Can. J. Bot. 74: 84-90.Google Scholar
  53. Schimel J.P.,Cates R.G. andRuess R. 1998. The role of balsam poplar secondary chemicals in controlling soil nutrient dynamics through succession in the Alaskan taiga. Biogeochem. 42: 221-234.Google Scholar
  54. Schnitzer M. andSpiteller M. 1986. The chemistry of the “unknown” soil nitrogen. Tans. 13th Conf. Int. Soil Sci. Soc., Hamburg 3: 473-474.Google Scholar
  55. Schulten H.R. andSchnitzer M. 1998. The chemistry of soil organic nitrogen: a review. Biol. Fertil. Soils 26: 1-15.Google Scholar
  56. Senwo Z.N. andTabatabai M.A. 1998. Amino acid composition of soil organic matter. Biol. Fertil. Soils 26: 235-242.Google Scholar
  57. Sholars R.E. 1982. The Pygmy Forest and Associated Plant Communities of Coastal Mendocino County. Black Bear Press, California, Mendocino, USA, 50 p.Google Scholar
  58. Sollins P. andMcCorison F.M. 1981. Nitrogen and carbon solution chemistry of an old growth coniferous forests watershed before and after cutting. Water Resour. Res. 17: 1409-1418.Google Scholar
  59. Sowden F.J.,Chen Y. andSchnitzer M. 1977. The nitrogen distribution in soils formed under widely differing climatic conditions. Geochim. Cosmochim. Acta 41: 1524-1526.Google Scholar
  60. Stevenson F.J. 1954. Ion exchange chromatography of amino acids in soil hydrolysates. Soil Sci. Soc. Am. Proc. 18: 373-376.Google Scholar
  61. Stevenson F.J. 1956. Effect of some long-time rotations on the amino acid composition of the soil. Soil Sci. Soc. Am. Proc. 20: 204-208.Google Scholar
  62. Stevenson F.J. 1994. Humus Chemistry. 2nd edn. J Wiley, New York.Google Scholar
  63. Thurman E.M. andMalcolm R.L. 1981. Preparative isolation of aquatic humic substances. Environ. Sci. Technol. 15: 463-466.Google Scholar
  64. Titus B.B.,Sidhu S.S. andMallik A.U. 1995. A summary of some studies on Kalmia angustifolia L.: A problem species in Newfoundland forestry. Canadian Forest Service Information Report N-X-296.Google Scholar
  65. Tsugita A.,Uchida T.,Werner Mewes H. andAtaka T. 1987. A rapid-vapor phase acid (hydrochloric acid and trifluoroacetic acid) hydrolysis of peptide and protein. J. Biochem. 102: 1593-1597.Google Scholar
  66. Van Cleve K. andWhite R. 1980. Forest-floor nitrogen dynamics in a 60-year-old paper birch ecosystem in interior Alaska. Plant Soil 54: 359-381.Google Scholar
  67. Young J.L. andMortenson J.L. 1958. Soil nitrogen complexes. I. Chromatography of amino compounds in soil hydrolysates. Ohio Agric. Exp. Stn. Res. Circ. 61: 1-18.Google Scholar
  68. Yu Z.S.,Northup R.R. andDahlgren R.A. 1993. Determination of dissolved organic nitrogen using persulfate oxidation and onductimetric quantification of nitrate-nitrogen. Commun. Soil Sci. Plant Anal. 25: 3161-3169.Google Scholar

Copyright information

© Kluwer Academic Publishers 2002

Authors and Affiliations

  • Z. Yu
    • 1
  • Q. Zhang
    • 1
  • T.E.C. Kraus
    • 1
  • R.A. Dahlgren
    • 1
  • C. Anastasio
    • 1
  • R.J. Zasoski
    • 1
  1. 1.Department of Land, Air and Water ResourcesUniversity of CaliforniaDavisUSA

Personalised recommendations