Inorganic Nitrogen Supply and Dissolved Organic Nitrogen Abundance across the US Great Plains

Publication Type:

Journal Article


PLOS ONE, PUBLIC LIBRARY SCIENCE, Volume 9, Number 9, 1160 BATTERY STREET, STE 100, SAN FRANCISCO, CA 94111 USA, p.e107775 (2014)


Across US Great Plains grasslands, a gradient of increasing mean annual precipitation from west to east corresponds to increasing aboveground net primary productivity (ANPP) and increasing N-limitation. Previous work has shown that there is no increase in net N mineralization rates across this gradient, leading to the question of where eastern prairie grasses obtain the nitrogen to support production. One as-yet unexamined source is soil organic N, despite abundant literature from other ecosystems showing that plants take up dissolved soil organic N. This study measured KCl-extractable dissolved organic N (DON) in surface soils across the grassland productivity gradient. We found that KCl-extractable DON pools increased from west to east. If available to and used by plants, this DON may help explain the high ANPP in the eastern Great Plains. These results suggest a need for future research to determine whether, in what quantities, and in what forms prairie grasses use organic N to support primary production.