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New insights on N transformations by 15N tracing techniques

Conference paper
Authors Tobias Rütting
Pascal Boeckx
Dries Huygens
Leif Klemedtsson
Christoph Müller
Published in Working Papers of the Finnish Forest Research Institute
Volume 128
Pages 216
ISBN 978-951-40-2176-3
ISSN 1795-150X
Publication year 2009
Published at Department of Plant and Environmental Sciences
Pages 216
Language en
Keywords N cycle; 15N; soil; review
Subject categories Solid earth geology and petrology, Other Earth and Related Environmental Sciences, Terrestrial ecology, Soil chemistry, Soil biology


In recent years the understanding of the nitrogen (N) cycling in soil experienced great changes due to the discovery of a variety of new processes or underpinning the importance of alternative processes, including anaerobic ammonium oxidation (anammox), archaeal nitrification, fungal denitrification and co-denitrification, heterotrophic nitrification and nitrifier denitrification (Francis et al., 2007; Hayatsu et al., 2008). A widely used method to investigate N cycling are 15N tracing studies where one or more soil N pools are labelled with 15N and subsequently the concentrations and 15N enrichments are followed over a period of time. The main objective of these studies is to quantify the simultaneously occurring gross N transformations. Recent progress in 15N tracing models (Müller et al., 2007) enables us to perform more comprehensive process-specific analyses of the N cycle and investigate the ecological importance of previously ignored processes such as heterotrophic nitrification and dissimilatory nitrate reduction to ammonium (DNRA) (Rütting et al., 2008). Here we present results from several 15N labelling studies in temperate grassland and forest ecosystems from the northern and southern hemisphere. In these ecosystems DNRA is the dominant, sometimes exclusive pathway of NO3- consumption. The main advantage of DNRA over other NO3- consumption processes is that N is transferred into NH4+, another plant available N form, which is not prone to N losses. Therefore DNRA leads to conservation of mineral N in soils.

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