Nitrogen and nature.

Conference Paper

Anthropogenic changes to the global N cycle are important in part because added N alters the composition, productivity, and other properties of many natural ecosystems substantially. Why does added N have such a large impact? Why is N in short supply in so many natural ecosystems? Processes that slow the cycling of N relative to other elements and processes that control ecosystem-level inputs and outputs of N could cause N supply to limit the dynamics of ecosystems. We discuss stoichiometric differences between terrestrial plants and other organisms, the abundance of protein-precipitating plant defenses, and the nature of the C-N bond in soil organic matter as factors that can slow N cycling. For inputs, the energetic costs of N fixation and their consequences, the supply of nutrients other than N, and preferential grazing on N-fixers all could constrain the abundance and/or activity of biological N-fixers. Together these processes drive and sustain N limitation in many natural terrestrial ecosystems.

Full Text

Duke Authors

Cited Authors

  • Vitousek, PM; Hättenschwiler, S; Olander, L; Allison, S

Published Date

  • March 2002

Published In

Volume / Issue

  • 31 / 2

Start / End Page

  • 97 - 101

PubMed ID

  • 12078015

Electronic International Standard Serial Number (EISSN)

  • 1654-7209

International Standard Serial Number (ISSN)

  • 0044-7447

Digital Object Identifier (DOI)

  • 10.1579/0044-7447-31.2.97