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Ecophysiological mechanisms characterising fen and bog species: focus on variations in nitrogen uptake traits under different soil–water pH

Abstract

Although the productivity and nitrogen (N)-use traits of mire plants differ dramatically between fens and bogs, soil N richness does not necessarily differ, whereas the soil–water pH is distinctly lower in bogs than in fens. The ecophysiological mechanisms underlying these relations are unclear. To assess the relative availability of N forms in relation to soil–water pH, we focused on the net N uptake rate per unit root weight (NNUR), glutamine synthetase activity and nitrate reductase activity, and performed reciprocal transplant experiments with the seedlings of fen (Carex lyngbyei) and bog (C. middendorffii) sedge species in intact habitat sites. The soil–water pH was clearly lower at the bog site, but the NH4 +, NO3 or dissolved organic-N concentrations did not differ between the fen and bog sites. The activity of both enzymes for inorganic-N assimilation did not differ among the sites and species. However, the fen species grown at bog sites showed a drastic decrease in the NNUR, suggesting a suppression of organic-N uptake. The bog species showed no NNUR difference between the sites. These results indicate that inorganic-N availability does not differ between the two habitats, but organic-N availability is lowered in a low-pH bog, particularly in the case of fen species. Therefore, the relative availability of N forms shows species-specific variations that depend on the differences in the soil–water pH of root zone, even at similar N richness, which would play a key role in plant distribution strategies in relation to the fen-bog gradient.

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Acknowledgments

We thank Mr. Yuhto Koizumi, Mr. Suguru Saitoh and Mr. Shin Izawa, Faculty of Bioindustry, Tokyo University of Agriculture, Hokkaido, Japan, for their kind assistance in laboratory and field work. A part of this research was supported by Grants-in-Aid for Advanced Research Project of Tokyo University of Agriculture and Scientific Research of Lake Akkeshi and Bekanbeushi Wetland.

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Correspondence to Takatoshi Nakamura.

Additional information

Communicated by Allan Green.

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Nakamura, T., Nakamura, M. Ecophysiological mechanisms characterising fen and bog species: focus on variations in nitrogen uptake traits under different soil–water pH. Oecologia 168, 913–921 (2012). https://doi.org/10.1007/s00442-011-2161-3

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Keywords

  • Glutamine synthetase
  • Mire
  • Nitrate reductase
  • Nitrogen availability
  • Organic nitrogen