Changing perspectives on terrestrial nitrogen cycling: The importance of weathering and evolved resource-use traits for understanding ecosystem responses to global change

Rachel Wooliver, Adam F.A. Pellegrini, Bonnie Waring, Benjamin Z. Houlton, Colin Averill, Joshua Schimel, Lars O. Hedin, Joseph K. Bailey, Jennifer A. Schweitzer

Research output: Contribution to journalReview article

2 Scopus citations

Abstract

Our understanding of terrestrial nitrogen (N) cycling is changing as new processes are uncovered, including the sources, turnover and losses of N from ecosystems. We integrate recent insights into an updated N-cycling framework and discuss how a new understanding integrates eco-evolutionary dynamics with nutrient cycling. These insights include (a) the significance of rock weathering as a biologically meaningful N source to plants and microbes; (b) the lack of consistent N limitation of organic matter decomposition by soil microbes; (c) species-specific variation in plant N limitation; and (d) how fire effects on soil N shift with ecosystem properties. Using an eco-evolutionary framework and revised knowledge of N cycling, we describe how (a) rock N weathering could have contributed more strongly to gradients in soil N availability than previously recognized, (b) evolution and co-evolution of plant and soil microbial resource-use traits underlie whether decomposition and production are N-limited, and (c) the effects of fire on soil N pools are mediated by composition of plant species and time-scale. Our revised framework of N cycling provides a way forward for improving biogeochemical models to more accurately estimate rates of plant production and decomposition, and total soil N. A free Plain Language Summary can be found within the Supporting Information of this article.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)1818-1829
Number of pages12
JournalFunctional Ecology
Volume33
Issue number10
DOIs
StatePublished - Oct 1 2019

All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes

  • Ecology, Evolution, Behavior and Systematics

Keywords

  • carbon storage
  • eco-evolutionary feedbacks
  • ecosystem processes
  • global change
  • nitrogen deposition
  • resource-use traits
  • rock nitrogen weathering

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