Relieving substrate limitation-soil moisture and temperature determine gross N transformation rates

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Abstract

A field experiment was designed with the objective to reveal the interactions between soil moisture, temperature, total, dissolved, and phosphate buffer extractable C and N, and microbial activity in the control of in situ gross N mineralization and immobilization rates in a deciduous forest. We had three alternative hypotheses to explain variations of the gross N transformations: 1) microorganisms are C limited, 2) microorganisms are N limited, or 3) neither C nor N limit the microorganisms but moisture and temperature conditions. Each hypothesis had specific criteria to be fulfilled for its acceptance. The results demonstrated that gross N transformation rates were more dependent on and variable with soil moisture and temperature than the size of the different C and N pools. The immobilization of N was dependent on the gross mineralization rate, suggesting that the production of enzymes for mineralization of organic N and the immobilization of N from the surrounding soil is disconfirmed when the intracellular N content of the microorganisms is sufficiently high. If the microorganisms are starved for N, enzyme systems involved in both the assimilation and mineralization of N are activated. The mean in situ gross N mineralization rate was two orders of magnitude higher than the natural N deposition in the area and the N addition in the NITREX experiments, meaning that a reduction in the gross N mineralization rate of about 1% would be enough to compensate for the addition of inorganic N. This decrease would hardly be detectable given the great spatial and temporal variability of N transformation rates.

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  • Biological Sciences
  • Ecology
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)81-90
JournalOikos
Volume111
Issue number1
Publication statusPublished - 2005
Publication categoryResearch
Peer-reviewedYes