Betula pubescens ssp
Springer Online Journal Archives 1860-2000
Abstract Previous research has shown that plant extracts, e.g. from boreal dwarf shrubs and trees, can cause reduced growth of neighbouring plants: an effect known as allelopathy. To examine whether arctic and subarctic plants could also be affected by leaching of phytochemicals, we added extracts from the commonly occurring arctic dwarf shrubs Cassiope tetragona and Empetrum hermaphroditum, and from mountain birch, Betula pubescens ssp. tortuosa to three graminoid species, Carex bigelowii, Festuca vivipara and Luzula arcuata, grown in previously sterilized or non-sterilized arctic soils. The graminoids in non-sterilized soil grew more slowly than those in sterilized soil. Excised roots of the plants in non-sterilized soil had higher uptake rate of labelled P than those in sterilized soil, demonstrating larger nutrient deficiency. The difference in growth rate was probably caused by higher nutrient availability for plants in soils in which the microbial biomass was killed after soil sterilization. The dwarf shrub extracts contained low amounts of inorganic N and P and medium high amounts of carbohydrates. Betula extracts contained somewhat higher levels of N and much higher levels of P and carbohydrates. Addition of leaf extracts to the strongly nutrient limited graminoids in non-sterilized soil tended to reduce growth, whereas in the less nutrient limited sterilized soil it caused strong growth decline. Furthermore, the N and P uptake by excised roots of plants grown in both types of soil was high if extracts from the dwarf shrubs (with low P and N concentrations) had been added, whereas the P uptake declined but the N uptake increased after addition of the P-rich Betula extract. In contrast to the adverse extract effects on plants, soil microbial respiration and soil fungal biomass (ergosterol) was generally stimulated, most strongly after addition of the Betula extract. Although we cannot exclude the possibility that the reduced plant growth and the concomitant stimulation of microbial activity were caused by phytochemicals, we believe that this was more likely due to labile carbon in the extracts which stimulated microbial biomass and activity. As a result microbial uptake increased, thereby depleting the plant available pool of N and P, or, for the P-rich Betula extract, depleting soil inorganic N alone, to the extent of reducing plant growth. This chain of events is supported by the negative correlation between plant growth and sugar content in the three added extracts, and the positive correlation between microbial activity, fungal biomass production and sugar content, and are known reactions when labile carbon is added to nutrient deficient soils.
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