Plant and Soil

, Volume 254, Issue 1, pp 11–17 | Cite as

An assessment of soil enrichment by actinorhizal N2 fixation using δ15N values in a chronosequence of deglaciation at Glacier Bay, Alaska

  • Steven J. Kohls
  • Dwight D. Baker
  • Chris van Kessel
  • Jeffrey O. Dawson


The extent of transfer of fixed N between N2-fixing and non-N2-fixing plant species is largely unknown in successional studies. In order to redress this deficiency at a locale intensively studied ecologically, leaf tissue samples were collected from actinorhizal N2-fixing (Alnus, Shepherdia, and Dryas) and two non-N2-fixing (Salix) woody species within research plots located along a chronosequence of deglaciated fjord in Glacier Bay National Park, Alaska. The tissue samples were analyzed for δ15N content, and the resulting data analyzed for trends in plant tissue N. Among the non-N2-fixing Salix species, δ15N values increased from the most recently deglaciated sites to converge with the temporally more-stable values for the symbiotic N2-fixing species on sites at about 40 years after deglaciation. The lower δ15N values of sequestered N in plant tissues suggested that N derived from N2-fixing plants accounts for the major portion of N in associated plants up to 40 years after deglaciation. The 15N isotopic data also suggested that Shepherdia canadensis depends least on soil N, D. drummondii the most, and A. viridis ssp. sinuata somewhere between those two species. The presence of a sere dominated by dense thickets of A. viridis ssp. sinuata at the convergence of δ15N values for the N2-fixing and non-N2-fixing species indicated that this species is most responsible for accumulation of fixed N in soil at Glacier Bay. This paper is dedicated to the memory of Steven J. Kohls who died prior to publication of this research.

actinorhiza Alnus Dryas Frankia nitrogen fixation primary succession Shepherdia 


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Copyright information

© Kluwer Academic Publishers 2003

Authors and Affiliations

  • Steven J. Kohls
    • 1
  • Dwight D. Baker
    • 2
  • Chris van Kessel
    • 3
  • Jeffrey O. Dawson
    • 1
  1. 1.Department of Natural Resources and Environmental SciencesUniversity of IllinoisUrbanaUSA
  2. 2.Albany Molecular Research, Inc., Bothell Research CenterBothellUSA
  3. 3.Department of Agronomy and Range ScienceUniversity of CaliforniaDavisUSA

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