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Foliar and soil δ15N values reveal increased nitrogen partitioning among species in diverse grassland communities.

Type of publication Peer-reviewed
Publikationsform Original article (peer-reviewed)
Publication date 2011
Author Gubsch Marlén, Roscher Christiane, Gleixner Gerd, Habekost Maike, Lipowsky Annett, Schmid Bernhard, Schulze Ernst-Detlef, Steinbeiss Sibylle, Buchmann Nina,
Project Mechanisms underlying plant community productivity, stability and assembly (D-A-CH/LAE)
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Original article (peer-reviewed)

Journal Plant, cell & environment
Volume (Issue) 34(6)
Page(s) 895 - 908
Title of proceedings Plant, cell & environment
DOI 10.1111/j.1365-3040.2011.02287.x

Open Access


Plant and soil nitrogen isotope ratios (δ¹⁵N) were studied in experimental grassland plots of varying species richness. We hypothesized that partitioning of different sources of soil nitrogen among four plant functional groups (legumes, grasses, small herbs, tall herbs) should increase with diversity. Four years after sowing, all soils were depleted in ¹⁵N in the top 5 cm whereas in non-legume plots soils were enriched in ¹⁵N at 5-25 cm depth. Decreasing foliar δ¹⁵N and Δδ¹⁵N (= foliar δ¹⁵N-soil δ¹⁵N) values in legumes indicated increasing symbiotic N₂ fixation with increasing diversity. In grasses, foliar Δδ¹⁵N also decreased with increasing diversity suggesting enhanced uptake of N depleted in ¹⁵N. Foliar Δδ¹⁵N values of small and tall herbs were unaffected by diversity. Foliar Δδ¹⁵N values of grasses were also reduced in plots containing legumes, indicating direct use of legume-derived N depleted in ¹⁵N. Increased foliar N concentrations of tall and small herbs in plots containing legumes without reduced foliar δ¹⁵N indicated that these species obtained additional mineral soil N that was not consumed by legumes. These functional group and species specific shifts in the uptake of different N sources with increasing diversity indicate complementary resource use in diverse communities.