Five years of simulated atmospheric nitrogen deposition have only subtle effects on the fate of newly synthesized carbon in Calluna vulgaris and Eriophorum vaginatum

Pauline M. Currey, David Johnson, Lorna A. Dawson, Rene van der Wal, Barry Thornton, Lucy J. Sheppard, Ian D. Leith, Rebekka R. E. Artz

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21 Citations (Scopus)


To understand the implications of atmospheric nitrogen deposition on carbon turnover in peatlands, we conducted a C-13 pulse labeling experiment on Calluna vulgaris and Eriophorum vaginatum already receiving long-term (5 years) amendments of 56 kg N ha(-1) y(-1) as ammonium or nitrate. We examined shoot tissue retention, net ecosystem respiration returns of the C-13 pulse, and soil porewater DOC content under the two species. C-13 fixation in Eriophorum leaves was enhanced with nitrogen addition and doubled with nitrate supply. This newly fixed C appeared to be relocated below-ground faster with nitrogen fertilization as respiration returns were unaffected by N inputs. By contrast, increases in C-13 fixation were not observed in Calluna. Instead, net ecosystem respiration rates over Calluna increased with N fertilization. There was no significant label incorporation into DOC, suggesting a conservative strategy of peatland vegetation regarding allocation of C through root exudation. Greater concentrations of total DOC were identified with nitrate addition in Calluna. Given the long-term nature of the experiment and the high N inputs, the overall impacts of nitrogen amendments on the fate of recently synthesized C in Eriophorum and Calluna in this ombrotrophic peatland were surprisingly more moderate than originally hypothesized. This may be due to N being effectively retained within the bryophyte layer, thus limiting, and delaying the onset of, below-ground effects. (C) 2010 Elsevier Ltd. All rights reserved.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)495-502
Number of pages8
JournalSoil Biology and Biochemistry
Issue number3
Early online date4 Dec 2010
Publication statusPublished - Mar 2011


  • pulse-chase labeling
  • carbon allocation
  • Eriophorum vaginatum
  • Calluna vulgaris
  • peat
  • nitrogen deposition
  • dissolved organic-carbon
  • 2 upland perennials
  • Pteridium-aquilinun
  • soil respiration
  • L hull
  • mycorrhizal infection
  • heathland vegetation
  • nutrient limitation
  • vascular plants
  • climate-change

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