Chronic Atmospheric NO3- Deposition Does Not Induce NO3- Use by Acer saccharum Marsh.

TitleChronic Atmospheric NO3- Deposition Does Not Induce NO3- Use by Acer saccharum Marsh.
Publication TypeJournal Article
Year of Publication2008
AuthorsEddy WC, Zak DR, Holmes WE, Pregitzer KS
Pagination469 - 477
Date Published4/2008

The ability of an ecosystem to retain anthropogenic nitrogen (N) deposition is dependent upon plant and soil sinks for N, the strengths of which may be altered by chronic atmospheric N deposition. Sugar maple (Acer saccharum Marsh.), the dominant overstory tree in northern hardwood forests of the Lake States region, has a limited capacity to take up and assimilate NO3−. However, it is uncertain whether long-term exposure to NO3− deposition might induce NO3− uptake by this ecologically important overstory tree. Here, we investigate whether 10 years of experimental NO3− deposition (30 kg N ha−1 y−1) could induce NO3− uptake and assimilation in overstory sugar maple (approximately 90 years old), which would enable this species to function as a direct sink for atmospheric NO3− deposition. Kinetic parameters for NH4+ and NO3− uptake in fine roots, as well as leaf and root NO3− reductase activity, were measured under conditions of ambient and experimental NO3− deposition in four sugar maple-dominated stands spanning the geographic distribution of northern hardwood forests in the Upper Lake States. Chronic NO3− deposition did not alter the V max or K m for NO3− and NH4+ uptake nor did it influence NO3− reductase activity in leaves and fine roots. Moreover, the mean V max for NH4+ uptake (5.15 μmol 15N g−1 h−1) was eight times greater than the V max for NO3− uptake (0.63 μmol 15N g−1 h−1), indicating a much greater physiological capacity for NH4+ uptake in this species. Additionally, NO3− reductase activity was lower than most values for woody plants previously reported in the literature, further indicating a low physiological potential for NO3− assimilation in sugar maple. Our results demonstrate that chronic NO3− deposition has not induced the physiological capacity for NO3− uptake and assimilation by sugar maple, making this dominant species an unlikely direct sink for anthropogenic NO3− deposition.