Forum for Science, Industry and Business

Sponsored by:     3M 
Search our Site:

 

Forest canopies help determine natural fertilization rates

30.05.2008
Scientists clarify controls on boreal nitrogen resource that dictates long-term forest productivity

In this week’s issue of Science, a US and Swedish research team report on a newly identified factor that controls the natural input of new nitrogen into boreal forest ecosystems.

Nitrogen is the primary nutrient that dictates productivity (and thus carbon consumption) in boreal forests. In pristine boreal ecosystems, most new nitrogen enters the forest through cyanobacteria living on the shoots of feather mosses, which grows in dense cushions on the forest floor. These bacteria convert nitrogen from the atmosphere to a form that can be used by other living organisms, a process referred to as “nitrogen-fixation.” The researchers showed that this natural fertilization process appears to be partially controlled by trees and shrubs that sit above the feather mosses.

In the summer of 2006, the researchers placed small tubes, called resin lysimeters, in the moss layer to catch nitrogen deposited on the feather moss carpets from the above canopy and then monitored nitrogen fixation rates in the mosses. The studies revealed that when high levels of nitrogen were deposited on the moss cushion from above, a condition typical of young forests, nitrogen fixation was extremely low. In older, low-productivity forests, very little nitrogen was deposited on the moss cushion, resulting in extremely high nitrogen fixation rates.

Nitrogen fixation is an energy demanding process. Thus, when mosses are exposed to high concentrations of bioavailable nitrogen, the cyanobacteria will consume this resident nitrogen rather than expending energy on fixing new nitrogen. Thus the nitrogen content of canopy throughfall acts as a regulator of newly fixed nitrogen into these boreal forests. For this same reason, elevated nitrogen deposition from pollution likely reduces moss nitrogen fixation rates. The moss would initially buffer the forest against the effect of nitrogen added as pollution or fertilizer; however, chronic elevated nitrogen inputs would ultimately eliminate this natural source of forest fertility.

The feather moss-cyanobacterial association provides a unique model system in which to study nitrogen feedback mechanisms. The cyanobacteria reside on the leaves, thus the nitrogen status of the canopy throughfall directly influences nitrogen fixation in the feather mosses. This direct expression of a nutrient feedback mechanism could not be detected in other nitrogen fixing plant species, such as legumes, that house their nitrogen fixing bacteria below ground and where soils and decomposing litter intercept and modify the nitrogen from throughfall before it reaches the bacteria.

These findings are important from a global standpoint, because feather mosses (and associated cyanobacteria) are the primary source of biologically fixed nitrogen in the boreal forest biome. The dominating feathermoss Pleurozium schreberi is also found in arctic and temperate biomes and thus may be the widest distributed individual nitrogen-fixing plant species on Earth. Understanding feed back mechanisms among dominating organisms that regulate fundamental ecosystem processes are integral to our ability to predict long term outcomes of global carbon dynamics.

Sven-Olov Bylund | alfa
Further information:
http://www.sciencemag.org
http://www.slu.se

More articles from Ecology, The Environment and Conservation:

nachricht How does the loss of species alter ecosystems?
18.05.2017 | Deutsches Zentrum für integrative Biodiversitätsforschung (iDiv) Halle-Jena-Leipzig

nachricht Excess diesel emissions bring global health & environmental impacts
16.05.2017 | International Institute for Applied Systems Analysis (IIASA)

All articles from Ecology, The Environment and Conservation >>>

The most recent press releases about innovation >>>

Die letzten 5 Focus-News des innovations-reports im Überblick:

Im Focus: Turmoil in sluggish electrons’ existence

An international team of physicists has monitored the scattering behaviour of electrons in a non-conducting material in real-time. Their insights could be beneficial for radiotherapy.

We can refer to electrons in non-conducting materials as ‘sluggish’. Typically, they remain fixed in a location, deep inside an atomic composite. It is hence...

Im Focus: Wafer-thin Magnetic Materials Developed for Future Quantum Technologies

Two-dimensional magnetic structures are regarded as a promising material for new types of data storage, since the magnetic properties of individual molecular building blocks can be investigated and modified. For the first time, researchers have now produced a wafer-thin ferrimagnet, in which molecules with different magnetic centers arrange themselves on a gold surface to form a checkerboard pattern. Scientists at the Swiss Nanoscience Institute at the University of Basel and the Paul Scherrer Institute published their findings in the journal Nature Communications.

Ferrimagnets are composed of two centers which are magnetized at different strengths and point in opposing directions. Two-dimensional, quasi-flat ferrimagnets...

Im Focus: World's thinnest hologram paves path to new 3-D world

Nano-hologram paves way for integration of 3-D holography into everyday electronics

An Australian-Chinese research team has created the world's thinnest hologram, paving the way towards the integration of 3D holography into everyday...

Im Focus: Using graphene to create quantum bits

In the race to produce a quantum computer, a number of projects are seeking a way to create quantum bits -- or qubits -- that are stable, meaning they are not much affected by changes in their environment. This normally needs highly nonlinear non-dissipative elements capable of functioning at very low temperatures.

In pursuit of this goal, researchers at EPFL's Laboratory of Photonics and Quantum Measurements LPQM (STI/SB), have investigated a nonlinear graphene-based...

Im Focus: Bacteria harness the lotus effect to protect themselves

Biofilms: Researchers find the causes of water-repelling properties

Dental plaque and the viscous brown slime in drainpipes are two familiar examples of bacterial biofilms. Removing such bacterial depositions from surfaces is...

All Focus news of the innovation-report >>>

Anzeige

Anzeige

Event News

AWK Aachen Machine Tool Colloquium 2017: Internet of Production for Agile Enterprises

23.05.2017 | Event News

Dortmund MST Conference presents Individualized Healthcare Solutions with micro and nanotechnology

22.05.2017 | Event News

Innovation 4.0: Shaping a humane fourth industrial revolution

17.05.2017 | Event News

 
Latest News

Supercomputing helps researchers understand Earth's interior

23.05.2017 | Earth Sciences

Study identifies RNA molecule that shields breast cancer stem cells from immune system

23.05.2017 | Life Sciences

Turmoil in sluggish electrons’ existence

23.05.2017 | Physics and Astronomy

VideoLinks
B2B-VideoLinks
More VideoLinks >>>