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Award Abstract #0614116

Biogeochemical Controls on Nitrogen Fixation in a Diverse Neotropical Forest

Division Of Environmental Biology
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Initial Amendment Date: September 2, 2006
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Latest Amendment Date: June 30, 2008
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Award Number: 0614116
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Award Instrument: Continuing grant
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Program Manager: Richard S. Inouye
DEB Division Of Environmental Biology
BIO Direct For Biological Sciences
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Start Date: September 1, 2006
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End Date: August 31, 2010 (Estimated)
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Awarded Amount to Date: $445,000.00
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Investigator(s): Lars Hedin lhedin@princeton.edu (Principal Investigator)
Anne Kraepiel (Co-Principal Investigator)
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Sponsor: Princeton University
Off. of Research & Proj. Admin.
Princeton, NJ 08544-2020 (609)258-3090
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Program Reference Code(s): 1181, 9169, EGCH
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Program Element Code(s): 1181, 7381


Biogeochemical Controls on Nitrogen Fixation in a Diverse Neotropical Forest.

Lars Hedin and Anne Kraepiel, Princeton University

The ability of tropical forests to neutralize future emissions of CO2 greenhouse gases depends critically upon whether these forests will become increasingly limited by soil nutrients. This project will use state-of-the art measures in Panamanian tropical forests to examine a crucial component of the response to CO2: the ability of soil microbes and certain higher plants in tropical forests to naturally acquire (or 'fix') the essential nutrient nitrogen from the atmosphere. There is considerable controversy among leading scientists as to whether or not nitrogen fixation will decrease as other nutrients become severely limiting to nitrogen fixers in response to climate change. However, there exists virtually no first-hand understanding of the factors that determine nitrogen fixation rates in tropical forests. This project will use direct measures of nitrogen fixation in combination with manipulations of nutrients including nitrogen, phosphorus and molybdenum, to examine and quantify these factors.

Recent runs of the NOAA/GFDL earth system model show that solving the carbon and climate problem (i.e., stabilization at 500 ppm atmospheric CO2) is fully twice as difficult over the next fifty years if the tropics become severely limited by nutrients. This means that the role of nutrients in tropical forests constitutes one of the greatest uncertainties in our understanding of how CO2 greenhouse gas emissions will affect the Earth's climate system in the future. This project is an example of how basic science (i.e., the study of fundamental natural processes) has immediate and potentially deep implications for practical issues such as climate change. If the project is successful in understanding controls on nitrogen fixation, it becomes possible to incorporate these processes in the global earth system models, which, in turn, will contribute to reducing a major uncertainty about the existence of future natural sinks for CO2 emissions.


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Hedin L.O., E.N.J. Brookshire, D.N.L. Menge, and A. Barron. "The Nitrogen Paradox in Tropical Forest Ecosystems," Annual Review of Ecology and Systematics, v.40, 2009, p. 613.

Barron, A.R., N. Wurzburger, J-P Bellenger, S.J. Wright, A.M. Kraepiel, and L.O. Hedin.. "Molybdenum limitation of asymbiotic nitrogen fixation in tropical forest soils.," Nature Geosciences, v.2, 2009, p. 42.

Bellenger J.B., Wichard T., Kraepiel A.M.L.. "Vanadium requirements and uptake kinetics in the dinitrogen-fixing bacterium Azotobacter vinelandii.," Appl. Environ. Microbiol., v.74, 2008, p. 1478.

Wichard T., Mishra B., Myneni S., Bellenger, J-P, Kraepiel A.M.L.. "Storage and Bioavailability of Molybdenum in Soils Increased by Organic Matter Complexation," Nature Geosciences, v.2, 2009, p. 625.

Wichard T., Bellenger J.-P., Loison A. and Kraepiel A. M. L.. "Catechol siderophores control tungsten uptake and toxicity in the nitrogen-fixing bacterium Azotobacter vinelandii.," Environ. Science Technol., v.42, 2008, p. 2408.

Menge, D.N.L., S.A. Levin, & L.O. Hedin. "Facultative versus obligate nitrogen fixation strategies and their ecosystem consequences," American Naturalist, v.174, 2009, p. 465. 

Barron, A.R., D.W. Purves and L.O. Hedin. "Facultative Nitrogen Fixation by Canopy Legumes in a Lowland Tropical Forest," Oecologia, 2010. 

Menge, D.N. L. and L.O. Hedin. "Nitrogen fixation in different biogeochemical niches along a 120,000-year chronosequence in New Zealand," Ecology, v.90, 2010, p. 2190. 

Menge, DNL; Levin, SA; Hedin, LO. "Evolutionary tradeoffs can select against nitrogen fixation and thereby maintain nitrogen limitation," PROCEEDINGS OF THE NATIONAL ACADEMY OF SCIENCES OF THE UNITED STATES OF AMERICA, v.105, 2008, p. 1573.   

Menge, D.N.L., S.W. Pacala and L.O. Hedin. "Emergence and Maintenance of Nutrient Limitation over Multiple Timescales in Terrestrial Ecosystems," American Naturalist, v.173, 2009, p. 164.

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Barron A.. "Nitrogen Fixation in Tropical Soils", 09/01/2007-08/31/2008, , none"Ph.D. Dissertation, Princeton University.",  2007, "Princeton University".

Barron A.. "Nitrogen Fixation in Tropical Soils", 09/01/2008-08/31/2009, , none"Ph.D. Dissertation, Princeton University.",  2007, "Princeton University".

Barron A.. "Nitrogen Fixation in Tropical Soils", 09/01/2009-08/31/2010, , none"Ph.D. Dissertation, Princeton University.",  2007, "Princeton University".

Menge, DNL. "The ecology and evolution of nitrogen
fixation and nutrient limitation at
multiple time scales", 09/01/2008-08/31/2009,  2008, "Ph.D. Thesis, Princeton University".

Menge, DNL. "The ecology and evolution of nitrogen
fixation and nutrient limitation at
multiple time scales", 09/01/2009-08/31/2010,  2008, "Ph.D. Thesis, Princeton University".


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