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PLoS One. 2014 Feb 20;9(2):e89322. doi: 10.1371/journal.pone.0089322. eCollection 2014.

Sinks for inorganic nitrogen deposition in forest ecosystems with low and high nitrogen deposition in China.

Author information

  • 1Key Laboratory of Ecosystem Network Observation and Modeling, Institute of Geographic Sciences and Natural Resources Research, Chinese Academy of Sciences, Beijing, PR China.
  • 2Institute of Applied Ecology, Chinese Academy of Sciences, Shenyang, PR China.
  • 3South China Botany Garden, Chinese Academy of Science, Guangzhou, PR China.
  • 4College of Ecology and Environmental Science, Inner Mongolia Agricultural University, Hohhot Inner Mongolia, PR China.


We added the stable isotope (15)N in the form of ((15)NH4)2SO4 and K(15)NO3 to forest ecosystems in eastern China under two different N deposition levels to study the fate of the different forms of deposited N. Prior to the addition of the (15)N tracers, the natural (15)N abundance ranging from -3.4‰ to +10.9‰ in the forest under heavy N deposition at Dinghushan (DHS), and from -3.92‰ to +7.25‰ in the forest under light N deposition at Daxinganling (DXAL). Four months after the tracer application, the total (15)N recovery from the major ecosystem compartments ranged from 55.3% to 90.5%. The total (15)N recoveries were similar under the ((15)NH4)2SO4 tracer treatment in both two forest ecosystems, whereas the total (15)N recovery was significantly lower in the subtropical forest ecosystem at DHS than in the boreal forest ecosystem at DXAL under the K(15)NO3 tracer treatment. The (15)N assimilated into the tree biomass represented only 8.8% to 33.7% of the (15)N added to the forest ecosystems. In both of the tracer application treatments, more (15)N was recovered from the tree biomass in the subtropical forest ecosystem at DHS than the boreal forest ecosystem at DXAL. The amount of (15)N assimilated into tree biomass was greater under the K(15)NO3 tracer treatment than that of the ((15)NH4)2SO4 treatment in both forest ecosystems. This study suggests that, although less N was immobilized in the forest ecosystems under more intensive N deposition conditions, forest ecosystems in China strongly retain N deposition, even in areas under heavy N deposition intensity or in ecosystems undergoing spring freezing and thawing melts. Compared to ammonium deposition, deposited nitrate is released from the forest ecosystem more easily. However, nitrate deposition could be retained mostly in the plant N pool, which might lead to more C sequestration in these ecosystems.

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