Roots, nitrogen transformations, and ecosystem services

Louise E. Jackson, Martin Burger, Timothy R. Cavagnaro

Research output: Contribution to journalReview articlepeer-review

258 Citations (Scopus)


This review considers some of the mechanistic processes that involve roots in the soil nitrogen (N) cycle, and their implications for the ecological functions that retain N within ecosystems: 1) root signaling pathways for N transport systems, and feedback inhibition, especially for NO3 - uptake; 2) dependence on the mycorrhizal and Rhizobium/legume symbioses and their tradeoffs for N acquisition; 3) soil factors that influence the supply of NH4+ and NO3- to roots and soil microbes; and 4) rhizosphere processes that increase N cycling and retention, such as priming effects and interactions with the soil food web. By integrating information on these plant-microbe-soil N processes across scales and disciplinary boundaries, we propose ideas for better manipulating ecological functions and processes by which the environment provides for human needs, i.e., ecosystem services. Emphasis is placed on agricultural systems, effects of N deposition in natural ecosystems, and ecosystem responses to elevated CO 2 concentrations. This shows the need for multiscale approaches to increase human dependence on a biologically based N supply.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)341-363
Number of pages23
JournalAnnual Review of Plant Biology
Publication statusPublished - 2 Jun 2008
Externally publishedYes


  • Ammonium
  • Arbuscular mycorrhizae
  • Elevated carbon dioxide concentration
  • Nitrate
  • Nitrogen cycle
  • Rhizosphere


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