Nitrogen stable isotope composition of leaves and roots of plants growing in a forest and a meadow

P. Dijkstra, C. Williamson, O. Menyailo, R. Doucett, G. Koch, B. A. Hungate

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

34 Scopus citations


In controlled N-nutrition experiments, differences in δ15N composition of leaves and roots are regularly found. In this paper we report results from a survey of nitrogen stable isotope signatures of leaves and roots of 16 plant species growing under natural conditions in a meadow and a forest understorey, which differed in nitrate and ammonium availability. Significant differences between leaf and root were observed. The range of Δ15N [leaf-root] values was -0.97 to +0.86‰, small compared to published values from controlled N-nutrition experiments, but almost as large as the range of leaf δ15N values (-1.04 to +1.08‰). Forbs showed the largest differences between leaves and roots and showed a significant difference with respect to habitat. Grasses and legumes did not show significant differences in Δ15N [leaf-root], between the two habitats. Care must be taken when using leaf δ15N values as representative for whole-plant 15N composition in these two habitats.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)29-39
Number of pages11
JournalIsotopes in Environmental and Health Studies
Issue number1
StatePublished - Mar 2003


  • Ammonium
  • Forbs
  • Grasses
  • Legumes
  • Natural abundance
  • Nitrate
  • Nitrogen

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Environmental Chemistry
  • General Environmental Science
  • Inorganic Chemistry


Dive into the research topics of 'Nitrogen stable isotope composition of leaves and roots of plants growing in a forest and a meadow'. Together they form a unique fingerprint.

Cite this