Natural Abundance of Nitrogen-15 in a Forest Soil


Because of measurement difficulties, only a few studies on natural 15N abundance (δ15N) of inorganic N in forest soil have been pursued despite its importance for interpretations of plant δ15N signatures. To investigate stable N isotope ratios in inorganic N, the δ15N values and concentrations of total N, NH+4-N, and NO−3-N of forest mineral soils in four profiles were measured along a slope (altitude of 765–870 m) in a coniferous (Japanese red cedar, Cryptomeria japonica D. Don) forest in Japan. Generally, the δ15N values of total N, NH+4-N, and NO−3-N increased with increasing soil depth. The values of δ15N ranged from 1.0 to 6.8‰, 2.5 to 15.6‰, and −14.8 to 5.6‰ for total N, NH+4-N, and NO−3-N, respectively. Additionally, the δ15N values were different between NH+4-N and NO−3-N for each soil depth. Thus, it was concluded that the assumptions about inorganic N used in interpretation of plant δ15N values were valid. Moreover, on upper slope sites where soil inorganic N was predominantly NH+4-N, the order of δ15N was generally total N > NH+4-N > NO−3-N for each depth, whereas the order of δ15N was NH+4-N > total N > NO−3-N on lower slope sites where NH+4-N was less dominant as soil inorganic N and relatively high net nitrification rates were measured. Our results suggested that nitrification plays an important role in regulating δ15N in forest-soil N.

Publication Date


Journal Title

Soil Science Society of America Journal


Soil Science Society of America

Document Type