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Soil Science Society of America Journal Abstract -

Fixation of Isotopic Nitrogen on a Semiarid Soil by Algal Crust Organisms1


This article in SSSAJ

  1. Vol. 30 No. 1, p. 56-60
    Received: July 12, 1965
    Accepted: Sept 17, 1965

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  1. H. F. Mayland2,
  2. T. H. McIntosh and
  3. W. H. Fuller3



Semiarid desert algal crust organisms were found to fix N2 when exposed to an atomosphere which contained isotopically enriched N. Significant quantities of the N isotope were detected in the total crust N after 3 days of incubation under field-simulated conditions.

Net N2 fixation rates by the algal crust organisms were 0.16 and 0.10 lb of N/acre of crust surface per day under continuous wet and cycling wet-dry conditions, respectively. Net fixation of N under field-simulated conditions adequately compensated for the removal of N by livestock. The rate of N2 fixation under field-simulated conditions increased linearly for at least 520 days. The amount of N in the algal crust was doubled during this time. No net N change was observed in dry crusts.

Growing algal crusts contained 1% to 2% of the total N as extracellular NH4-N. Excretion of some fixed nitrogen was suggested by the isotopic enrichment of the extracellular N fraction and uptake of labeled N by grass seedlings (Artemesia sp.) growing on incubated crusts.

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