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Spatial distributions of plants and gross N transformation rates in a forest soil

  • Per Bengtson
  • Ursula Falkengren-Grerup
  • Göran Bengtsson
Publishing year: 2006
Language: English
Pages: 754-764
Publication/Series: Journal of Ecology
Volume: 94
Issue: 4
Document type: Journal article
Publisher: Wiley-Blackwell

Abstract english

1 This work demonstrates that spatial distribution of understorey vegetation and gross N transformation rates in a mixed beach-oak forest is closely correlated within a distance of a few metres. The findings imply that plant diversity and productivity have a major influence on gross rates of N transformation and vice versa.

2 A geostatistical analysis was used to evaluate the spatial relationships between abundance and species composition of the understorey vegetation and in situ gross N mineralization, NH4+ immobolization and nitrification rates.

3 The gross N transformation rates and the plants spatial variation were correlated within the forest, but plant distribution was more dependent on the fraction of mineralized N that was nitrified than on individual N transformation rates.

4 The total cover of the understorey vegetation varied more in space than the species composition, and was higher in areas with high N transformation rates.

5 Plant species benefiting from high net nitrification rates were more common in areas with a low activity of mineralizing and nitrifying microorganisms, possibly because the net and gross rates were independent of each other. In fact, those species occurred most often in areas in which a large fraction of mineralized N was nitrified.

6 Beech and oak trees also had an effect on the spatial variation of the understorey vegetation. Beech trees provided conditions more suitable for plants benefiting from NO3-, whereas the vascular plant cover was greater under oak trees, probably in response to a higher light interception than under beech trees.

7 Oak generally had a positive impact on gross N transformation rates compared with beech, perhaps reflecting differences in litter quality and climate caused by the two species.

8 The influence of trees alone could not explain the full magnitude of the variation of N transformation rates or the presence of overlapping areas with high mineralization and immobilization rates. These were probably caused by other factors, such as soil moisture content.

9 This work sheds new light on the small-scale spatial links between above-ground plant diversity and abundance, and below-ground microbial N transformations.


  • Biological Sciences
  • Ecology


  • Microbial Ecology
  • ISSN: 1365-2745
Per Bengtson
E-mail: per [dot] bengtson [at] biol [dot] lu [dot] se



+46 46 222 37 60


Sölvegatan 37, Lund


Research group

Microbial Ecology


Doctoral students and postdocs

PhD students, main supervisor


PhD students, assistant supervisor

Jian Li

Experimental setup