Robertson, G. P. and P. Groffman. 2007. Nitrogen transformations. Pages 341-364 in E. A. Paul, ed. Soil Microbiology, Ecology, and Biochemistry. Elsevier Academic Press, Oxford, UK.
This chapter provides an overview of nitrogen transformations. No other element essential for life takes as many forms in soil as nitrogen (N), and transformations among these forms are mostly mediated by microbes. Soil microbiology plays yet another crucial role in ecosystem function: in most terrestrial ecosystems, nitrogen limits plant growth, and thus net primary production—the productive capacity of the ecosystem—can be regulated by the rates at which soil microbes transform N to plant-usable forms. However, several forms of N are also pollutants, so soil microbial transformations of nitrogen also affect human and environmental health, sometimes far away from the microbes that performed the transformation. Understanding nitrogen transformations and the soil microbes that perform them is, thus, essential for understanding and managing ecosystem health and productivity. The concepts related to nitrogen mineralization and immobilization, nitrification, and inhibition of nitrification are discussed along with details of denitrification and nitrogen movement in the landscape.
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