Changes in stable nitrogen and carbon isotope ratios of plants and soil across a boreal forest fire chronosequence

Fujio Hyodo, Soichiro Kusaka, David A. Wardle, Marie Charlotte Nilsson

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

23 Citations (Scopus)


Background and Aim: Nitrogen (N) and carbon (C) isotopic signatures (δ15N and δ13C) serve as powerful tools for understanding temporal changes in ecosystem processes, but how these signatures change across boreal forest chronosequences is poorly understood. Methods: The δ15N, δ13C, and C/N ratio of foliage of eight dominant plant species, including trees, understory shrubs, and a moss, as well as humus, were examined across a 361 years fire-driven chronosequence in boreal forest in northern Sweden. Results: The δ13C and C/N ratio of plants and humus increased along the chronosequence, suggesting increasing plant stress through N limitation. Despite increasing biological N fixation by cyanobacteria associated with feather mosses, δ15N showed an overall decline, and δ15N of the feather moss and associated vascular plants diverged over time from that of atmospheric N2. Conclusions: Across this chronosequence the N fixed by cyanobacteria is unlikely to be used by mosses and vascular plants without first undergoing mineralization and mycorrhizal transport, which would cause a change in δ15N signature due to isotopic fractionation. The decreasing trend of δ15N suggests that as the chronosequence proceeds, the plants may become more dependent on N transferred from mycorrhizal fungi or from N deposition.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)315-323
Number of pages9
JournalPlant and Soil
Issue number1-2
Publication statusPublished - Mar 2013


  • Boreal forest
  • Chronosequence
  • Mycorrhiza
  • Pleurozium schreberi

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Soil Science
  • Plant Science


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