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This article in SSSAJ

  1. Vol. 71 No. 1, p. 140-144
    Received: Mar 10, 2006

    * Corresponding author(s): khof@umich.edu


Carbon Dioxide Effects on Heterotrophic Dinitrogen Fixation in a Temperate Pine Forest

  1. Kirsten S. Hofmockel * and
  2. William H. Schlesinger
  1. N icholas School of the Environ. and Earth Sci., Duke Univ., Durham, NC 27708
    c urrent address: School of Natural Resources & Environment, Univ. of Michigan, Dana Building, Room G530, 440 Church St., Ann Arbor, MI 48109-1041


Increased net primary productivity (NPP) under elevated atmospheric CO2 requires additional N inputs to sustain C sequestration. We hypothesized that heterotrophic N2 fixation would be stimulated by enhanced litter production under elevated CO2, thus augmenting N availability to plants. To test if N2 fixation is limited by organic substrates alone or in combination with nutrients required for the nitrogenase enzyme, we measured nitrogenase activity (acetylene reduction) in laboratory incubations with water, nutrient, and O2 manipulations. Response of N2 fixation to water, glucose, P, Fe, or Mo was measured under aerobic and anaerobic conditions in forest floor and mineral soil samples from the Duke Forest, NC. Potential nitrogenase activity in forest floor and mineral soil from the Duke Forest Free Air CO2 Enrichment (FACE) site were measured to determine if elevated CO2 enhances N2 fixation. In homogenized slurries with glucose additions, nitrogenase activity was 2 and 400 times greater than controls in organic and mineral soils, respectively (P < 0.01). In laboratory studies, water additions increased N2 fixation 25-fold in intact soil cores (P < 0.01). Additions of nutrients alone or in combination with C and water did not consistently stimulate N2 fixation in intact soil cores. We detected no CO2 effect on potential nitrogenase activity in Duke FACE soil. Since heterotrophic N2 fixation is not stimulated in temperate pine forests under elevated CO2, additional N assimilation by trees will require increased acquisition of endogenous N, such as increased nutrient use efficiency or enhanced root exploration of the soil.

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