Impact of land use on soluble organic nitrogen in soil

Victoria B. Willett, James J. Green, Andrew J. MacDonald, John A. Baddeley, Georg Cadisch, Steven M. Francis, Keith W.T. Goulding, Gary Saunders, Elizabeth A. Stockdale, Christine A. Watson, David L. Jones

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

19 Citations (Scopus)


Although it has been hypothesized that soluble organic nitrogen (SON) plays a central role in regulating productivity in some terrestrial ecosystems, the factors controlling the size of the SON pool in soil remain poorly understood. Therefore our principal aim in this work was to assess the impact of seven different land use systems (rough and managed grassland, deciduous and coniferous woodland, heathland, wetland and tilled land) on the size of the SON and inorganic N (NO3-, NH4+) pools in the surface soil layer (0-15 cm). After extraction with deionised water, we found that in most cases the size of the water extractable organic N (WEON) pool was similar in size to the inorganic N pool. In contrast, the KCl extractable organic N (KClEON) pool constituted the dominant form of soluble N in soils under all land uses, perhaps indicating that significant amounts were held on the soil exchange phase. In contrast to inorganic N, which varied significantly with land use, the size of the KClEON and WEON pool was similar for all land uses with the exception of KClEON in tilled land, where significantly lower amounts were observed. We conclude that SON constitutes an important soil N pool in a broad range of land uses, and that its role in microbial N assimilation, plant nutrition and ecosystem responses to atmospheric N deposition warrants further attention.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)53-60
Number of pages8
JournalWater, Air, and Soil Pollution: Focus
Issue number6
Publication statusPublished - 1 Dec 2004
Externally publishedYes


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