Nitrogen Isotope Patterns in Alaskan Black Spruce Reflect Organic Nitrogen Sources and the Activity of Ectomycorrhizal Fungi

Research output: Contribution to journalArticle

Abstract

Global patterns in soil, plant, and fungal stable isotopes of N (delta N-15) show promise as integrated metrics of N cycling, particularly the activity of ectomycorrhizal (ECM) fungi. At small spatial scales, however, it remains difficult to differentiate the underlying causes of plant delta N-15 variability and this limits the application of such measurements to better understand N cycling. We conducted a landscape-scale analysis of delta N-15 values from 31 putatively N-limited monospecific black spruce (Picea mariana) stands in central Alaska to assess the two main hypothesized sources of plant delta N-15 variation: differing sources and ECM fractionation. We found roughly 20% of the variability in black spruce foliar N and delta N-15 values to be correlated with the concentration and delta N-15 values of soil NH4 (+) and dissolved organic N (DON) pools, respectively. However, N-15-based mixing models from 24 of the stands suggested that fractionation by ECM fungi obscures the N-15 signature of soil N pools. Models, regressions, and N abundance data all suggested that increasing dependence on soil DON to meet black spruce growth demands predicates increasing reliance on ECM-derived N and that black spruce, on average, received 53% of its N from ECM fungi. Future research should partition the delta N-15 values within the soil DON pool to determine how choice of soil delta N-15 values influence modeled ECM activity. The C balance of boreal forests is tightly linked to N cycling and delta N-15 values may be useful metrics of changes to these connections.

Details

Authors
  • Jordan R. Mayor
  • Edward A. G. Schuur
  • Michelle C. Mack
  • Terresa N. Hollingsworth
  • Erland Bååth
Organisations
Research areas and keywords

Subject classification (UKÄ) – MANDATORY

  • Biological Sciences

Keywords

  • 15N, black spruce, denitrifier method, dissolved organic nitrogen, ectomycorrhiza, isotope fractionation, mixing models
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)819-831
JournalEcosystems
Volume15
Issue number5
Publication statusPublished - 2012
Publication categoryResearch
Peer-reviewedYes