New Method Confirms Importance of Fungi in Arctic Nitrogen Cycle

Cortinarius favrei grows in the midst of dwarf Betula and Salix, Vaccinium, and Eriophorum in the Alaskan tundra. At the Arctic LTER site, isotopic measurements indicate that mycorrhizal fungi function similar to this species contribute 60-90% of their plant’s nitrogen.

Technique Could be Applied to All Nitrogen-Poor Ecosystems

A new method to calculate the transfer of nitrogen from Arctic mushrooms to plants is shedding light on how fungi living symbiotically on plant roots transfer vital nutrients to their hosts. The analytical technique, developed by John E. Hobbie, MBL Distinguished Scientist and co-director of the laboratory’s Ecosystems Center and his son, Erik A. Hobbie of the University of New Hampshire, may be applied to nearly all conifers, oaks, beeches, birch and shrubs such as blueberry and cranberry—all nitrogen-poor ecosystems—and will be an important tool for future studies of plant nitrogen supply.

It has long been known when soil nitrogen is in short supply, mycorrhizal fungi (those living symbiotically on the roots of plants) transfer nutrients to their host plants in exchange for plant sugars derived from photosynthesis, but the rates of transfer have never been quantified in the field. John and Erik Hobbie’s study, published in the April 2006 issue of the journal Ecology, quantifies the role of mycorrhizal fungi in nitrogen cycling for the first time through measurements of the natural abundance of nitrogen isotopes in soils, mushrooms and plants. The researchers tested their technique using data from the Arctic LTER (Long Term Ecological Research) site near Toolik Lake, Alaska, in the northern foothills of the Brooks Range.

Previous research has found that when mycorrhizal fungi in the soil take up nitrogen from the soil and transfer it to small trees and shrubs, the heavy nitrogen isotope, nitrogen-15, is reduced in abundance in the plants and enriched in the fungi. Using a mass balance approach, an accounting of material entering and leaving a system, the researchers quantified the transfer of nitrogen and found that 61-86% of the nitrogen in plants at the site entered through fungal symbionts,

“Previous studies at this Arctic site have found a large range of nitrogen isotope content in plants and attributed the range to plants tapping into several different sources of nitrogen in the soil,” says John Hobbie. “Our study indicates that the differences can be attributed mainly to the presence or absence of symbiotic mycorrhizal fungi.”

The researcher’s new technique is shedding light not only on the nitrogen cycle in arctic tundra ecosystems, but can be applied to other nitrogen-poor ecosystems. “In the future, studies of plant nitrogen supply in all nitrogen-poor ecosystems must include these important transfers between plants and fungi,” says Hobbie.

Media Contact

Gina Hebert EurekAlert!

Further information:

http://www.mbl.edu

All news from this category: Ecology, The Environment and Conservation

This complex theme deals primarily with interactions between organisms and the environmental factors that impact them, but to a greater extent between individual inanimate environmental factors.

innovations-report offers informative reports and articles on topics such as climate protection, landscape conservation, ecological systems, wildlife and nature parks and ecosystem efficiency and balance.

Back to the Homepage

Comments (0)

Write comment

Latest posts

Seawater as an electrical cable !?

Wireless power transfers in the ocean For drones that can be stationed underwater for the adoption of ICT in mariculture. Associate professor Masaya Tamura, Kousuke Murai (who has completed the…

Rare quadruple-helix DNA found in living human cells with glowing probes

New probes allow scientists to see four-stranded DNA interacting with molecules inside living human cells, unravelling its role in cellular processes. DNA usually forms the classic double helix shape of…

A rift in the retina may help repair the optic nerve

In experiments in mouse tissues and human cells, Johns Hopkins Medicine researchers say they have found that removing a membrane that lines the back of the eye may improve the…

Partners & Sponsors

By continuing to use the site, you agree to the use of cookies. more information

The cookie settings on this website are set to "allow cookies" to give you the best browsing experience possible. If you continue to use this website without changing your cookie settings or you click "Accept" below then you are consenting to this.

Close