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Gross nitrogen dynamics in the mycorrhizosphere of an organic forest soil

Journal article
Authors Maire Holz
Mohammad Aurangojeb
Åsa Kasimir
P Boeckx
Y Kuzyakov
Leif Klemedtsson
Tobias Rütting
Published in Ecosystems
Volume 19
Issue 2
Pages 284-295
ISSN 1432-9840
Publication year 2016
Published at Department of Earth Sciences
Pages 284-295
Language en
Keywords mycorrhiza, rhizosphere, nitrogen, soil, stable isotopes, forest
Subject categories Environmental Sciences, Geochemistry, Other Earth and Related Environmental Sciences, Terrestrial ecology, Forest Science, Soil Science, Soil biology


The rhizosphere is a hot-spot for biogeochemical cycles, including production of greenhouse gases, as microbial activity is stimulated by rhizodeposits released by roots and mycorrhizae. The biogeochemical cycle of nitrogen (N) in soil is complex, consisting of many simultaneously occurring processes. In situ studies investigating the effects of roots and mycorrhizae on gross N turnover rates are scarce. We conducted a 15N tracer study under field conditions in a spruce forest on organic soil, which was subjected to exclusion of roots and roots plus ectomycorrhizae (ECM) for 6 years by trenching. The forest soil had, over the 6-year period, an average emission of nitrous oxide (N2O) of 5.9 ± 2.1 kg N2O ha−1 year−1. Exclusion of roots + ECM nearly tripled N2O emissions over all years, whereas root exclusion stimulated N2O emission only in the latest years and to a smaller extent. Gross mineralization–ammonium (NH4 +) immobilization turnover was enhanced by the presence of roots, probably due to high inputs of labile carbon, stimulating microbial activity. We found contrasting effects of roots and ECM on N2O emission and mineralization, as the former was decreased but the latter was stimulated by roots and ECM. The N2O emission was positively related to the ratio of gross NH4 + oxidation (that is, autotrophic nitrification) to NH4 + immobilization. Ammonium oxidation was only stimulated by the presence of ECM, but not by the presence of roots. Overall, we conclude that plants and their mycorrhizal symbionts actively control soil N cycling, thereby also affecting N2O emissions from forest soils. Consequently, adapted forest management with permanent tree cover avoiding clearcutting could be a means to reduce N2O emissions and potential N leaching; despite higher mineralization in the presence of roots and ECM, N2O emissions are decreased as the relative importance of NH4 + oxidation is decreased, mainly due to a stimulated microbial NH4 + immobilization in the mycorrhizosphere.

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