Amino Acid Cycling in Three Cold-Temperate Forests of the Northeastern USA

Document Type


Publication Date


Publication Title

Soil Biology and Biochemistry

First Page


Last Page




Amino acids play a critical role in soil-N cycling. Much of the current research on amino acid cycling has been conducted in arctic, alpine, boreal, and temperate grassland ecosystems. There are no comparable data for temperate forests. We quantified the concentration and production of amino acid N and inorganic N in three forests varying in parent material and tree species composition in Connecticut, USA. Soil samples were collected on three sample dates in 2001 and 2002. At all three sites, a pool of free amino acids was present in soil on all sample dates. Among-site differences in the production of amino acids were related to variations in the activity of proteolytic enzymes, the sensitivity of proteolytic enzymes to the availability of protein substrate, and the presence or absence of a surface organic horizon. Among-site differences in amino acid turnover appeared to be at least partially related to soil C-to-N ratios and their effect on C vs. N limitation to microbial function. Amino acid concentrations in the top 15 cm of mineral soil in these study sites fell within the range of reported values for ecosystems spanning a wide latitudinal gradient, including ecosystems in which amino acids are thought to contribute substantively to plant-N nutrition. The concentration of amino acid N in the organic horizons of these study sites was considerably higher than those reported in the literature. The implications of the results for N capture by temperate forest trees are discussed.


Version of record can be found through: Elsevier.