Non-symbiotic nitrogen fixation in forest ecosystems

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Since the first attempts to increase forest growth using nitrogen (N) fixation, biological N fixation has been intensively studied. Numerous studies that focused on symbiotic N fixation and rates were well quantified. However, the rates and importance of non-symbiotic N fixation in forest ecosystems remains incomplete. In this review, reports of non-symbiotic N fixation from various studies throughout the world were examined and the ecological significance of non-symbiotic N fixation in temperate forest ecosystems was investigated. The reported rates of non-symbiotic N fixation varied greatly, and ranged from < 0.01-5 kg N ha-1 year-1. However, an average input of 2-3 kg N ha-1 year-1 could be expected when all ecosystem components were included. In several studies, non-symbiotic N fixation seemed to decrease with stand age. Some methodological considerations such as incubation time and conversion factor in the acetylene reduction method were presented. Also, it should be noted that more detailed studies on non-symbiotic N fixation in boreal and tropical forests are needed to understand the importance of N fixation in these forest ecosystems.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)183-196
Number of pages14
JournalEcological Research
Issue number2
Publication statusPublished - 2001 Jun

Bibliographical note

Funding Information:
Special thanks to Dr Dan Binkley for his valuable suggestions on an earlier version of this paper. I thank Jason Kaye and Jose Stape for their critical comments. Funding for this study was provided by Korea University and Colorado State University.


  • Acetylene reduction method
  • Forest ecosystem
  • Non-symbiotic nitrogen fixation

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Ecology, Evolution, Behavior and Systematics


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