Advances in N-15-tracing experiments: new labelling and data analysis approaches

Research output: Contribution to journalArticle


To obtain an in-depth understanding of soil nitrogen dynamics, it is necessary to quantify a variety of simultaneously occurring gross nitrogen transformation processes. In order to do so, most studies apply N-15 in a disturbed soil-microbial-root system and quantify gross rates based on the principles of N-15 isotope dilution. However, this approach has several shortcomings. First, studying disturbed soil provides only limited information on in situ soil nitrogen dynamics. Secondly, the analytical data analysis allows the quantification of total production and consumption rates of the labelled pool, but does not provide information on process-specific transformation rates. Combining in situ N-15 isotope labelling over 1-2 weeks with numerical data analysis allows determining process-specific gross nitrogen transformations in undisturbed soils under field conditions in the presence of live roots and their associated microbial communities. This has the potential to increase our understanding of nitrogen dynamics in the soil environment.


  • T Rutting
  • D Huygens
  • J Staelens
  • C Muller
  • P Boeckx
Research areas and keywords

Subject classification (UKÄ) – MANDATORY

  • Biochemistry and Molecular Biology


  • N-15 labelling, N-15 tracing, nitrogen transformation, soil nitrogen cycle
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)279-283
JournalBiochemical Society Transactions
Publication statusPublished - 2011
Publication categoryResearch
Externally publishedYes