Effect of Elevated CO2 on Uptake of Organic Nitrogen from Soil
Jin, V.L. and Evans, R.D. 2010. Elevated CO2 increases plant uptake of organic and inorganic N in the desert shrub Larrea tridentata. Oecologia 163: 257-266.
To help remedy this situation, Jin and Evans grew seedlings of the desert shrub Larrea tridentata in environmentally-controlled chambers in ambient or CO2-enriched air (380 or 600 ppm) in pots filled with Mojave Desert (Nevada, USA) soils that they injected with isotopically-labeled 15N obtained from one of three different organic and inorganic sources -- (1) organic 15N glycine, or (2) inorganic 15NH4+, or (3) inorganic 15NO3- -- after which they destructively harvested the plants following 0, 2, 10, 24 and 49 additional days of growth and determined the amounts of soil N they had taken up from each of the three N sources.
The two researchers report that "elevated CO2 positively affected root uptake of N derived from all three N forms by day 10, with NO3--derived N taken up at the highest rates," and that "added glycine was taken up as intact amino acid within one hour of treatment application, indicating that L. tridentata can directly utilize soil organic sources," while noting that "to date, this study is the first to report organic N uptake by a plant species from a hot, arid ecosystem."
In discussing their findings, Jin and Evans say "there is increasing consensus that organic N uptake could be a major plant N acquisition pathway (Lipson and Nasholm, 2001; Schimel and Bennett, 2004), with 10-90% of the total annual plant N requirement potentially met by the uptake of external soil organic N (Chapin et al., 1993; Kielland, 1994; Jones and Darrah, 1994)." In addition, they note that "long-term exposure to elevated CO2 has altered the quality and quantity of plant-derived carbon inputs into Mojave Desert soils, leading to higher extracellular enzyme activities indicative of a greater or more active soil fungal component (Jin and Evans, 2007)," such that "increased soil fungi may lead to the greater release of monomeric organic N under elevated CO2, enhancing substrate availability for soil microbes as well as for plant uptake." Hence, there are several encouraging indications that the ongoing rise in the air's CO2 content will significantly enhance the vitality of arid-land ecosystems, and other ecosystems as well.
Chapin III, F.S., Moilanen, L. and Kielland, K. 1993. Preferential use of organic nitrogen for growth by a non-mycorrhizal arctic sedge. Nature 361: 150-153.
Jin, V.L. and Evans, R.D. 2007. Elevated CO2 increases microbial carbon substrate use and N cycling in Mojave Desert soils. Global Change Biology 13: 452-465.
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