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Minor contribution of leaf litter to N nutrition of beech (Fagus sylvatica) seedlings in a mountainous beech forest of Southern Germany

Minor contribution of leaf litter to N nutrition of beech (Fagus sylvatica) seedlings in a mountainous beech forest of Southern Germany
chair:

Guo C J, Simon J, Gasche R, Naumann P S, Bimüller C, Pena R, Polle A, Kögel-Knabner I, Zeller B, Rennenberg H, Dannenmann M

place:

Plant and Soil 369, 657-668. doi:10.1007/s11104-013-1603-6

Date: 2013

Minor contribution of leaf litter to N nutrition of beech (Fagus sylvatica) seedlings in a mountainous beech forest of Southern Germany

Plant Soil
Plant and Soil

Aims: Our aims were to characterize the fate of leaf-litter-derived nitrogen in the plant-soil-microbe system of a temperate beech forest of Southern Germany and to identify its importance for N nutrition of beech seedlings.
Methods: 15N-labelled leaf litter was traced in situ into abiotic and biotic N pools in mineral soil as well as into beech seedlings and mycorrhizal root tips over three growing seasons.
Results: There was a rapid transfer of 15N into the mineral soil already 21 days after tracer application with soil microbial biomass initially representing the dominant litter-N sink. However, 15N recovery in non-extractable soil N pools strongly increased over time and subsequently became the dominant 15N sink. Recovery in plant biomass accounted for only 0.025 % of 15N excess after 876 days. After three growing seasons, 15N excess recovery was characterized by the following sequence: non-extractable soil>>extractable soil N including microbial biomass>>plant biomass>ectomycorrhizal root tips.
Conclusions: After quick vertical dislocation and cycling through microbial N pools, there was a rapid stabilization of leaf-litter-derived N in non-extractable N pools of the mineral soil. Very low 15N recovery in beech seedlings suggests a high importance of other N sources such as root litter for N nutrition of beech understorey.