Journal article

Nitrogen mineralization: Challenges of a changing paradigm

Schimel J, Bennett J ...see all

Ecology (Washington D C), vol. 85, issue 3 (2004) pp. 591-602

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Until recently, the common view of the terrestrial nitrogen cycle had been driven by two core assumptions-plants use only inorganic N and they compete poorly against soil microbes for N. Thus, plants were thought to use N that microbes "left over," allowing the N cycle to be divided cleanly into two pieces-the microbial decomposition side and the plant uptake and use side. These were linked by the process of net mineralization. Over the last decade, research has changed these views. N cycling is now seen as being driven by the depolymerization of N-containing polymers by microbial (including mycorrhizal) extracellular enzymes. This releases organic N-containing monomers that may be used by either plants or microbes. However, a complete new conceptual model of the soil N cycle needs to incorporate recent research on plant-microbe competition and microsite processes to explain the dynamics of N across the wide range of N availability found in terrestrial ecosystems. We discuss the evolution of thinking about the soil N cycle, propose a new integrated conceptual model that explains how N cycling changes as ecosystem N availability changes, and discuss methodological issues raised by the changing paradigm of terrestrial N cycling.

Author-supplied keywords

  • 7727-37-9
  • Fungi-: Fungi-, Microorganisms-, Nonvascular-Plant
  • Microorganisms-: Microorganisms-
  • Plantae-: Plants-
  • Soil-Science
  • Terrestrial-Ecology: Ecology-, Environmental-Scien
  • [01000-] Microorganisms-, Microorganisms-
  • [11000-] Plantae-, Plantae-
  • [15000-] Fungi-, Plantae-
  • competition-
  • conceptual-model
  • extracellular-enzymes
  • inorganic-nitrogen
  • microbe- (Microorganisms-): common-, soil-species
  • microsite-processes
  • mycorrhiza- (Fungi-): common-
  • nitrogen-: 7727-37-9, nutrient-, availability-, mi
  • nitrogen-containing-polymers: depolymerization-
  • organic-nitrogen
  • organic-nitrogen-containing-monomers
  • plant- (Plantae-): common-
  • terrestrial-nitrogen-cycle

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  • Joshua-P Schimel

  • Jennifer Bennett

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