Plant amino acid uptake, soluble N turnover and microbial N capture in soils of a grazed Arctic salt marsh

Authors

  • Hugh A. L. Henry,

    1. Department of Botany, University of Toronto, 25 Willcocks Street, Toronto, Canada, M5S 3B2
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  • Robert L. Jefferies

    Corresponding author
    1. Department of Botany, University of Toronto, 25 Willcocks Street, Toronto, Canada, M5S 3B2
      Robert L. Jefferies (tel. +1 416 978 3534, fax +1 416 978 5878, e-mail jefferie@botany.utoronto.ca).
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Robert L. Jefferies (tel. +1 416 978 3534, fax +1 416 978 5878, e-mail jefferie@botany.utoronto.ca).

Summary

  • 1The uptake of free amino acids by the grass Puccinellia phryganodes was investigated in soils of an Arctic coastal salt marsh, where low temperatures and high salinity limit inorganic nitrogen (N) availability, and the availability of soluble organic N relative to inorganic N is often high.
  • 2Following the injection of 13C15N-amino acid, 15N-ammonium and 15N-nitrate tracers into soils, rates of soluble nitrogen turnover and the incorporation of 13C and 15N into plant roots and shoots were assessed. Chloroform fumigation-extraction was used to estimate the partitioning of labelled substrates into microbial biomass.
  • 3Free amino acids turned over rapidly in the soil, with half-lives ranging from 8.2 to 22.8 h for glycine and 8.9 to 25.2 h for leucine, compared with 5.6 to 14.7 h and 5.6 to 15.6 h for ammonium and nitrate, respectively. 15N from both organic and inorganic substrates was incorporated rapidly into plant tissue and the ratio of 13C/15N incorporation into plant tissue indicated that at least 5–11% of 13C15N-glycine was absorbed intact.
  • 4Microbial C and N per unit soil volume were 1.7 and 5.4 times higher, respectively, than corresponding values for plant C and N. Plant incorporation of 15N tracer was 56%, 83% and 68% of the comparable incorporation by soil microorganisms of glycine, ammonium and nitrate ions, respectively.
  • 5These results indicate that P. phryganodes can absorb amino acids intact from the soil despite competition from soil microorganisms, and that free amino acids may contribute substantially to N uptake in this important forage grass utilized by lesser snow geese in the coastal marsh.

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