Growth reduction of Sphagnum magellanicum subjected to high nitrogen deposition: the role of amino acid nitrogen concentration

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We tested the relationship between Sphagnum growth and the amount of nitrogen stored in free amino acids in a fertilisation experiment with intact peat monoliths in an open greenhouse in The Netherlands. Three nitrogen deposition scenarios were used: no nitrogen deposition, field conditions and a doubling of the latter, corresponding to 0, 40 and 80 kg N ham1 yearm1. Growth of Sphagnum as expressed by height increment was reduced in the 80 kg N treatment, but showed no correlation with the total nitrogen tissue concentration or with the concentration of individual or pooled free amino acids. The amount of nitrogen stored in free amino acids increased concomitantly with deposition, although it lagged more and more behind the total nitrogen concentration, the latter pointing to the accumulation of unmeasured nitrogen compounds. Asparagine clearly acted as the major storage compound for nitrogen in Sphagnum stem tissue, whereas arginine fulfilled this function to a lesser extent in the capitulum. It appears that nitrogen-induced growth inhibition of Sphagnum is related to acclimation rather than to certain threshold concentrations of amino nitrogen or total nitrogen. We propose that when Sphagnum is exposed to a step increase of nitrogen, its nitrogen metabolism does not adapt fast enough to keep up with the enhanced uptake rate. This imbalance between nitrogen uptake and assimilation may lead to an accumulation of toxic NH4+ in the cell and a subsequent reduction in growth
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)339-345
Issue number3
Publication statusPublished - 2003



  • n deposition
  • atmospheric co2
  • ammonium
  • nitrate
  • accumulation
  • metabolism
  • bogs
  • assimilation
  • vegetation
  • bryophytes

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