Short-term competition for ammonium and nitrate in tallgrass prairie
Document Type: Journal
Author(s): C. J. Dell ; C. W. Rice
Publication Year: 2005

Cataloging Information

fire management; Kansas; nitrogen; range management; season of fire; soil management; soil nutrients; tallgrass prairies
Record Maintained By:
Record Last Modified: June 1, 2018
FRAMES Record Number: 51320
Tall Timbers Record Number: 28158
TTRS Location Status: Not in file
TTRS Call Number: Available
TTRS Abstract Status: Okay, Fair use, Reproduced by permission

This bibliographic record was either created or modified by the Tall Timbers Research Station and Land Conservancy and is provided without charge to promote research and education in Fire Ecology. The E.V. Komarek Fire Ecology Database is the intellectual property of the Tall Timbers Research Station and Land Conservancy.


The availability of N limits productivity in tallgrass prairie. Spring burning is common because it results in greater plant productivity despite reducing net N mineralization. To better explain how burning affects inorganic N availability in tallgrass prairie, the partitioning of 15N among plant and soil pools was measured in June and August 1994. Approximately 2.5 µg N g-1 soil was injected as either NH4 or NO3 to a depth of 15 cm within cores in burned and unburned prairie. Cores were removed from the field 6 d after injection, and 15N recovery in plant and soil N pools was determined. No more than 14% of the applied 15N remained in inorganic form 6 d after application. The largest portion of the applied 15N (35-80%) was recovered in the soil organic nitrogen pool (No). Burning significantly increased the immobilization of both NH4 and NO3 within No, and microbial biomass accounted for ³50% of the 15N recovered in No. Accumulation of 15N in plants accounted for ³35% of the applied 15N with a majority recovered from roots. Burning had little effect on 15N recovery in plants; however, 15N accumulations in roots were significantly greater when NO3 was used. Results indicate that immobilization within soil organic matter (SOM) controls the availability of both NH4 and NO3 to plants. Increased immobilization in soils with burning probably results largely from increased microbial N demand resulting from greater litter inputs with wider C to N ratios. Further research is needed to determine if abiotic mechanisms for N immobilization also significantly influence N availability in prairie soils. © Soil Science Society of America.

Dell, C. J., and C. W. Rice. 2005. Short-term competition for ammonium and nitrate in tallgrass prairie. Soil Science Society of America Journal, v. 69, no. 2, p. 371-377.