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  1. Naik, Sushanta Kumar (Ed.)
    Allometric equations are often used to estimate plant biomass allocation to different tissue types from easier-to-measure quantities. Biomass allocation, and thus allometric equations, often differs by species and sometimes varies with nutrient availability. We measured biomass components for five nitrogen-fixing tree species ( Robinia pseudoacacia , Gliricidia sepium , Casuarina equisetifolia , Acacia koa , Morella faya ) and three non-fixing tree species ( Betula nigra , Psidium cattleianum , Dodonaea viscosa ) grown in field sites in New York and Hawaii for 4–5 years and subjected to four fertilization treatments. We measured total aboveground, foliar, main stem, secondary stem, and twig biomass in all species, and belowground biomass in Robinia pseudoacacia and Betula nigra , along with basal diameter, height, and canopy dimensions. The individuals spanned a wide size range (<1–16 cm basal diameter; 0.24–8.8 m height). For each biomass component, aboveground biomass, belowground biomass, and total biomass, we determined the following four allometric equations: the most parsimonious (lowest AIC) overall, the most parsimonious without a fertilization effect, the most parsimonious without canopy dimensions, and an equation with basal diameter only. For some species, the most parsimonious overall equation included fertilization effects, but fertilization effects were inconsistent across fertilization treatments. We therefore concluded that fertilization does not clearly affect allometric relationships in these species, size classes, and growth conditions. Our best-fit allometric equations without fertilization effects had the following R 2 values: 0.91–0.99 for aboveground biomass (the range is across species), 0.95 for belowground biomass, 0.80–0.96 for foliar biomass, 0.94–0.99 for main stem biomass, 0.77–0.98 for secondary stem biomass, and 0.88–0.99 for twig biomass. Our equations can be used to estimate overall biomass and biomass of tissue components for these size classes in these species, and our results indicate that soil fertility does not need to be considered when using allometric relationships for these size classes in these species. 
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    Free, publicly-accessible full text available August 21, 2024
  2. Cory, Jenny (Ed.)
    Abstract Nitrogen (N) is a key nutrient required by all living organisms for growth and development, but is a limiting resource for many organisms. Organisms that feed on material with low N content, such as wood, might be particularly prone to N limitation. In this study, we investigated the degree to which the xylophagous larvae of the stag beetle Ceruchus piceus (Weber) use associations with N-fixing bacteria to acquire N. We paired acetylene reduction assays by cavity ring-down absorption spectroscopy (ARACAS) with 15N2 incubations to characterize rates of N fixation within C. piceus. Not only did we detect significant N fixation activity within C. piceus larvae, but we calculated a rate that was substantially higher than most previous reports for N fixation in insects. While taking these measurements, we discovered that N fixation within C. piceus can decline rapidly in a lab setting. Consequently, our results demonstrate that previous studies, which commonly keep insects in the lab for long periods of time prior to and during measurement, may have systematically under-reported rates of N fixation in insects. This suggests that within-insect N fixation may contribute more to insect nutrition and ecosystem-scale N budgets than previously thought. 
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    Free, publicly-accessible full text available July 7, 2024
  3. Abstract

    Nitrogen (N) limitation to net primary production is widespread and influences the responsiveness of ecosystems to many components of global environmental change. Logic and both simple simulation (Vitousek and Fieldin in Biogeochemistry 46: 179–202, 1999) and analytical models (Menge in Ecosystems 14:519–532, 2011) demonstrate that the co-occurrence of losses of N in forms that organisms within an ecosystem cannot control and barriers to biological N fixation (BNF) that keep this process from responding to N deficiency are necessary for the development and persistence of N limitation. Models have focused on the continuous process of leaching losses of dissolved organic N in biologically unavailable forms, but here we use a simple simulation model to show that discontinuous losses of ammonium and nitrate, normally forms of N whose losses organisms can control, can be uncontrollable by organisms and can contribute to N limitation under realistic conditions. These discontinuous losses can be caused by temporal variation in precipitation or by ecosystem-level disturbance like harvest, fire, and windthrow. Temporal variation in precipitation is likely to increase and to become increasingly important in causing N losses as anthropogenic climate change proceeds. We also demonstrate that under the conditions simulated here, differentially intense grazing on N- and P-rich symbiotic N fixers is the most important barrier to the responsiveness of BNF to N deficiency.

     
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  4. Abstract

    Nitrogen (N)‐fixing trees are thought to break a basic rule of leaf economics: higher leaf N concentrations do not translate into higher rates of carbon assimilation. Understanding how leaf N affects photosynthesis and water use efficiency (WUE) in this ecologically important group is critical.

    We grew six N‐fixing and four non‐fixing tree species for 4–5 years at four fertilization treatments in field experiments in temperate and tropical regions to assess how functional type (N fixer vs. non‐fixer) and N limitation affected leaf N and how leaf N affected light‐saturated photosynthesis (Asat), stomatal conductance (gsw) and WUE (WUEiand δ13C).

    Asat, WUEiand δ13C, but notgsw, increased with higher leaf N. Surprisingly, N‐fixing and non‐fixing trees displayed similar scaling between leaf N and these physiological variables, and this finding was supported by reanalysis of a global dataset. N fixers generally had higher leaf N than non‐fixers, even when non‐fixers were not N‐limited at the leaf level. Leaf‐level N limitation did not alter the relationship ofAsat,gsw, WUEiand δ13C with leaf N, although it did affect the photosynthetic N use efficiency. Higher WUE was associated with higher productivity, whereas higherAsatwas not.

    Synthesis: The ecological success of N‐fixing trees depends on the effect of leaf N on carbon gain and water loss. Using a field fertilization experiment and reanalysis of a global dataset, we show that high leaf‐level photosynthesis and WUE in N fixers stems from their higher average leaf N, rather than a difference between N fixers and non‐fixers in the scaling of photosynthesis and WUE with leaf N. By clarifying the mechanism by which N fixers achieve and benefit from high WUE, our results further the understanding of global N fixer distributions.

     
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  5. Abstract

    Deep tropical soils with net anion exchange capacity can adsorb nitrate and might delay the eutrophication of surface waters that is often associated with many temperate croplands. We investigated anion exchange capacity and soil nitrate pools in deep soils in the Southern Brazilian Amazon, where conversion of tropical forest and Cerrado to intensive fertilized soybean and soybean-maize cropping expanded rapidly in the 2000s. We found that mean soil nitrate pools in the top 8 m increased from 143 kg N ha−1in forest to 1,052 in soybean and 1,161 kg N ha−1in soybean-maize croplands. This nitrate accumulation in croplands aligned with the estimated N surpluses in the croplands. Soil anion exchange capacity explained the magnitude of nitrate accumulation. High nitrate retention in soils was consistent with current low levels of streamwater nitrate exported from croplands. Soil exchange sites were far from saturation, which suggests that nitrate accumulation can continue for longer under current cropping practices, although mechanisms such as competition with other anions and preferential water flowpaths that bypass exchange sites could reduce the time to saturation.

     
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  6. Abstract

    Light and soil nitrogen availability can be strong controls of plant nitrogen (N) fixation, but data on how understory N‐fixing plants respond to these drivers are limited despite their important role in ecosystem N cycling. Furthermore, ecosystem N cycling can be altered by the introduction of species with nutrient use patterns that differ from natives. We assessed how N fixation of two exotic, understory species responded to varying light and soil N environments.

    We sampled leaf tissue fromMimosa pudicaL.,Desmodium triflorum(L.) DC., and a nonfixing reference plant (Axonopus) growing in control and two N fertilization treatments under either N‐fixing or non‐N‐fixing trees, which may alter local soil nutrient cycling, across a range of light conditions. We measured N fixation with15N isotope dilution, and ensured that N‐fixing neighbour trees were in fact fixing N. All understory plants were wild‐growing species not native to the study location.

    DesmodiumandMimosaacquired 82.6% and 71.6% of their nitrogen from fixation (%Ndfa) in the control, compared to 66.8% and 58.1% in the +10 g N m−2 year−1treatment and 73.1% and 64.7% in the +15 g N m−2 year−1treatment. These subtle %Ndfadifferences across fertilization treatments were more apparent at low light availability and disappeared at high light availability. The amount of N fixed by neighbouring trees did not influence %Ndfain the understory species.

    Synthesis. Our study shows some differences in N fixation across different nutrient environments at low light for two N‐fixing species, though the changes were small, and both species derived most of their N from fixation. These findings imply that introduced N‐fixing species could exacerbate ecosystem N enrichment, particularly under high soil N conditions.

     
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