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Open AccessArticle

Species Differences in Nitrogen Acquisition in Humid Subtropical Forest Inferred From 15N Natural Abundance and Its Response to Tracer Addition

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Vegetation Restoration and Management of Degraded Ecosystems and Guangdong Provincial Key Laboratory of Applied Botany, South China Botanical Garden, Chinese Academy of Sciences, Guangzhou 510650, China
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Department of Geosciences and Natural Resource Management, University of Copenhagen, Rolighedsvej 23, DK-1958 Frederiksberg C, Denmark
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Sino-Danish Centre for Education and Research (SDC), Niels Jensens Vej 2, DK-8000 Aarhus C, Denmark
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CAS key Laboratory of Forest Ecology and Management, Institute of Applied Ecology, Chinese Academy of Sciences, Shenyang 110164, China
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Key Laboratory of Stable Isotope Techniques and Applications, Shenyang 110016, China
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Authors to whom correspondence should be addressed.
Forests 2019, 10(11), 991; https://doi.org/10.3390/f10110991
Received: 13 October 2019 / Revised: 31 October 2019 / Accepted: 4 November 2019 / Published: 6 November 2019
(This article belongs to the Special Issue Stable Isotopes in Forest Ecosystem Research)
Differences in nitrogen (N) acquisition patterns between plant species are often reflected in the natural 15N isotope ratios (δ15N) of the plant tissues, however, such differences are poorly understood for co-occurring plants in tropical and subtropical forests. To evaluate species variation in N acquisition traits, we measured leaf N concentration (%N) and δ15N in tree and understory plant species under ambient N deposition (control) and after a decade of N addition at 50 kg N ha−1 yr−1 (N-plots) in an old-growth subtropical forest in southern China. We also measured changes in leaf δ15N after one-year of 15N addition in both the control and N-plots. The results show consistent significant species variation in leaf %N in both control and N-plots, but decadal N addition did not significantly affect leaf %N. Leaf δ15N values were also significantly different among the plant species both in tree and understory layers, and both in control and N-plots, suggesting differences in N acquisition strategies such as variation in N sources and dominant forms of N uptake and dependence on mycorrhizal associations among the co-occurring plant species. Significant differences between the plant species (in both control and N-plots) in changes in leaf δ15N after 15N addition were observed only in the understory plants, indicating difference in access (or use) of deposited N among the plants. Decadal N addition had species-dependent effects on leaf δ15N, suggesting the N acquisition patterns of these plant species are differently affected by N deposition. These results suggest that co-occurring plants in N-rich and subtropical forests vary in their N acquisition traits; these differences need to be accounted for when evaluating the impact of N deposition on N cycling in these ecosystems. View Full-Text
Keywords: N deposition; 15N natural abundance; subtropical forest; tree species; China N deposition; 15N natural abundance; subtropical forest; tree species; China
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Gurmesa, G.A.; Lu, X.; Gundersen, P.; Mao, Q.; Fang, Y.; Mo, J. Species Differences in Nitrogen Acquisition in Humid Subtropical Forest Inferred From 15N Natural Abundance and Its Response to Tracer Addition. Forests 2019, 10, 991.

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