Articles | Volume 9, issue 5
Research article
02 May 2012
Research article |  | 02 May 2012

Seasonal variation in nitrogen pools and 15N/13C natural abundances in different tissues of grassland plants

L. Wang and J. K. Schjoerring

Abstract. Seasonal changes in nitrogen (N) pools, carbon (C) content and natural abundance of 13C and 15N in different tissues of ryegrass plants were investigated in two intensively managed grassland fields in order to address their ammonia (NH3) exchange potential. Green leaves generally had the largest total N concentration followed by stems and inflorescences. Senescent leaves had the lowest N concentration, indicating N re-allocation. The seasonal pattern of the Γ value, i.e. the ratio between NH4+ and H+ concentrations, was similar for the various tissues of the ryegrass plants but the magnitude of Γ differed considerably among the different tissues. Green leaves and stems generally had substantially lower Γ values than senescent leaves and litter. Substantial peaks in Γ were observed during spring and summer in response to fertilization and grazing. These peaks were associated with high NH4+ rather than with low H+ concentrations. Peaks in Γ also appeared during the winter, coinciding with increasing δ15N values, indicating absorption of N derived from mineralization of soil organic matter. At the same time, δ13C values were declining, suggesting reduced photosynthesis and capacity for N assimilation. δ15N and δ13C values were more influenced by mean monthly temperature than by the accumulated monthly precipitation. In conclusion, ryegrass plants showed a clear seasonal pattern in N pools. Green leaves and stems of ryegrass plants generally seem to constitute a sink for NH3, while senescent leaves have a large potential for NH3 emission. However, management events such as fertilisation and grazing may create a high NH3 emission potential even in green plant parts. The obtained results provide input for future modelling of plant-atmosphere NH3 exchange.

Final-revised paper