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Urine is an important nitrogen source for plants irrespective of vegetation composition in an Arctic tundra: Insights from a N-15-enriched urea tracer experiment
Umeå University, Faculty of Science and Technology, Department of Ecology and Environmental Sciences.ORCID iD: 0000-0002-2362-7477
Umeå University, Faculty of Science and Technology, Department of Ecology and Environmental Sciences.
2018 (English)In: Journal of Ecology, ISSN 0022-0477, E-ISSN 1365-2745, Vol. 106, no 1, p. 367-378Article in journal (Refereed) Published
Abstract [en]

1. Mammalian herbivores can strongly influence nitrogen (N) cycling and herbivore urine could be a central component of the N cycle in grazed ecosystems. Despite its potential role for ecosystem productivity and functioning, the fate of N derived from urine has rarely been investigated in grazed ecosystems. 2. This study explored the fate of N-15-enriched urea in tundra sites that have been either lightly or intensively grazed by reindeer for more than 50years. We followed the fate of the N-15 applied to the plant canopy, at 2weeks and 1year after tracer addition, in the different ecosystem N pools. 3. N-15-urea was rapidly incorporated in cryptogams and in above-ground parts of vascular plants, while the soil microbial pool and plant roots sequestered only a marginal proportion. Furthermore, the litter layer constituted a large sink for the N-15-urea, at least in the short term, indicating a high biological activity in the litter layer and high immobilization in the first phases of organic matter decomposition. 4. Mosses and lichens still constituted the largest sink for the N-15-urea 1year after tracer addition at both levels of grazing intensity demonstrating their large ability to capture and retain N from urine. Despite large fundamental differences in their traits, deciduous and evergreen shrubs were just as efficient as graminoids in taking up the N-15-urea. The total recovery of N-15-urea was lower in the intensively grazed sites, suggesting that reindeer reduce ecosystem N retention. 5. Synthesis. The rapid incorporation of the applied N-15-urea indicates that arctic plants can take advantage of a pulse of incoming N from urine. In addition, N-15 values of all taxa in the heavily grazed sites converged towards the N-15 values for urine, bringing further evidence that urine is an important N source for plants in grazed tundra ecosystems.

Place, publisher, year, edition, pages
Wiley-Blackwell Publishing Inc., 2018. Vol. 106, no 1, p. 367-378
Keywords [en]
above- and belowground linkages, Arctic tundra, cryptogams, grazing intensity, microbial N biomass, N labelling, nutrient cycling, plant-herbivore interactions, plant nutrient uptake, urine
National Category
Ecology Botany Physical Geography
Identifiers
URN: urn:nbn:se:umu:diva-143713DOI: 10.1111/1365-2745.12820ISI: 000417839700031OAI: oai:DiVA.org:umu-143713DiVA, id: diva2:1171798
Available from: 2018-01-08 Created: 2018-01-08 Last updated: 2018-06-09Bibliographically approved

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Barthelemy, HélèneOlofsson, Johan

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