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Nitrogen mineralization by bacterial-feeding nematodes: verification and measurement

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Abstract

Bacterial feeding nematodes excrete N assimilated in excess of that required for growth. Because metabolic and developmental rates differ among nematode species, we hypothesized that their contribution to N mineralization in soil would differ. Sand-column microcosms amended with an organic substrate, bacteria, and with or without bacterial-feeding nematodes, were leached at 3-d intervals. Cumulative N, as NH +4 or NO -3 , leached from columns containing nematodes was consistently greater than from columns without nematodes. Maximum N-mineralization rates for populations of rhabditid nematodes, which predominated in field soils early in the summer were at lower temperatures than those for cephalobid nematodes, which predominated later in the summer. For an organic substrate with C-to-N ratio of 11:1, rates of N mineralization among species of different body size were similar, ranging between 0.0012 and 0.0058 μg-N nematode-1 d-1, mainly as NH +4 . Smaller nematodes mineralized more N per unit of body weight than larger nematodes. We hypothesized that at low C-to-N ratios of the organic substrate, bacterial growth is C-limited and N-immobilization will be minimal; at high C-to-N ratios bacterial growth will be N-limited and there may be rapid immobilization of newly-mineralized N. Consequently, net N mineralization in the presence of nematodes will be lower when the organic substrate has a high C-to-N ratio. In experiments with different nematode species, net mineralization and the nematode contribution to mineralization generally decreased with increasing C-to-N ratio, consistent with the hypothesis; however, there were exceptions.

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Ferris, H., Venette, R., van der Meulen, H. et al. Nitrogen mineralization by bacterial-feeding nematodes: verification and measurement. Plant and Soil 203, 159–171 (1998). https://doi.org/10.1023/A:1004318318307

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