Effect of ecosystem retrogression on stable nitrogen and carbon isotopes of plants, soils and consumer organisms in boreal forest islands

Fujio Hyodo, David A. Wardle

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

33 Citations (Scopus)


In the prolonged absence of catastrophic disturbance, ecosystem retrogression occurs, and this involves increased nutrient limitation, and reduced aboveground and belowground ecosystem processes rates. Little is known about how the nitrogen and carbon stable isotope ratios (δ15N and δ 13C) of plants, soils and consumer organisms respond to retrogression in boreal forests. We investigated a 5000 year chronosequence of forested islands in the boreal zone of northern Sweden, for which the time since lightning-induced wildfire increases with decreasing island size, leading to ecosystem retrogression. For this system, tissue δ 15N of three abundant plant species (Betula pubescens, Vaccinium myrtillus and Pleurozium schreberi) and humus all increased as retrogression proceeded. This is probably due to enhanced ecosystem inputs of N by biological fixation, and greater dependency of the plants on organic N during retrogression. The δ 13Cof B. pubescens and plant-derived humus also increased during retrogression, probably through nutrient limitation increasing plant physiological stress. Unlike the plants, δ15N of invertebrates (lycosid spiders and ants) did not increase during retrogression, probably because of their partial dependence on aquaticderived prey that had a variable δ15N signature. The δ 13C of the invertebrates increased as retrogression proceeded and converged towards that of an aquatic prey source (chironomid flies), suggesting increased dependence on aquatic-derived prey during retrogression. These results show that measurement of δ15N and δ13C of plants, soils, and consumers across the same environmental gradient can provide insights into environmental factors that drive both the aboveground and belowground subsystems, as well as the linkages between them.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)1892-1898
Number of pages7
JournalRapid Communications in Mass Spectrometry
Issue number13
Publication statusPublished - Jul 15 2009

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Analytical Chemistry
  • Spectroscopy
  • Organic Chemistry


Dive into the research topics of 'Effect of ecosystem retrogression on stable nitrogen and carbon isotopes of plants, soils and consumer organisms in boreal forest islands'. Together they form a unique fingerprint.

Cite this