Global-Scale Similarities in Nitrogen Release Patterns During Long-Term Decomposition

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Science  19 Jan 2007:
Vol. 315, Issue 5810, pp. 361-364
DOI: 10.1126/science.1134853

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Litter decomposition provides the primary source of mineral nitrogen (N) for biological activity in most terrestrial ecosystems. A 10-year decomposition experiment in 21 sites from seven biomes found that net N release from leaf litter is dominantly driven by the initial tissue N concentration and mass remaining regardless of climate, edaphic conditions, or biota. Arid grasslands exposed to high ultraviolet radiation were an exception, where net N release was insensitive to initial N. Roots released N linearly with decomposition and exhibited little net N immobilization. We suggest that fundamental constraints on decomposer physiologies lead to predictable global-scale patterns in net N release during decomposition.

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