Skip to Main Content
U.S. Forest Service
Caring for the land and serving people

United States Department of Agriculture

Home > Search > Publication Information

  1. Share via EmailShare on FacebookShare on LinkedInShare on Twitter
    Dislike this pubLike this pub
    Author(s): Matthew E. Craig; Jennifer M. Fraterrigo
    Date: 2017
    Source: Oecologia
    Publication Series: Scientific Journal (JRNL)
    Station: Southern Research Station
    PDF: Download Publication  (350.0 KB)


    Many invasive plant species show high rates of nutrient acquisition relative to their competitors. Yet the mechanisms underlying this phenomenon, and its implications for ecosystem functioning, are poorly understood, particularly in nutrient-limited systems. Here, we test the hypothesis that an invasive plant species (Microstegium vimineum) enhances its rate of nitrogen (N) acquisition by outcompeting soil organic matter-degrading microbes for N, which in turn accelerates soil N and carbon (C) cycling. We estimated plant cover as an indicator of plant N acquisition rate and quantified plant tissue N, soil C and N content and transformations, and extracellular enzyme activities in invaded and uninvaded plots. Under low ambient N availability, invaded plots had 77% higher plant cover and lower tissue C:N ratios, suggesting that invasion increased rates of plant N acquisition. Concurrent with this pattern, we observed significantly higher mass-specific enzyme activities in invaded plots as well as 71% higher long-term N availability, 21% lower short-term N availability, and 16% lower particulate organic matter N. A structural equation model showed that these changes were interrelated and associated with 27% lower particulate organic matter C in invaded areas. Our findings suggest that acquisition of N by this plant species enhances microbial N demand, leading to an increased flux of N from organic to inorganic forms and a loss of soil C. We conclude that high N acquisition rates by invasive plants can drive changes in soil N cycling that are linked to effects on soil C.

    Publication Notes

    • You may send email to to request a hard copy of this publication.
    • (Please specify exactly which publication you are requesting and your mailing address.)
    • We recommend that you also print this page and attach it to the printout of the article, to retain the full citation information.
    • This article was written and prepared by U.S. Government employees on official time, and is therefore in the public domain.


    Craig, Matthew E.; Fraterrigo, Jennifer M. 2017.Plant–microbial competition for nitrogen increases microbial activities and carbon loss in invaded soils. Oecologia. 184(3): 583-596.


    Google Scholar


    Invasive plants, nutrient uptake, soil carbon, enzyme activities, nitrogen limitation

    Related Search

    XML: View XML
Show More
Show Fewer
Jump to Top of Page