Holland, Elisabeth A. and Detling, James K. 1990. Plant Response to Herbivory and Below Ground Nitrogen Cycling. Ecology 71. pp. 1040-1049.
Plant responses to herbivory and links to belowground nitrogen cycling were investigated at Wind Cave National Park, South Dakota. Laboratory estimates of net nitrogen mineralization were highest in soils from the more altered areas of prairie dog colonies (Cynomys ludovicianus) and lowest in the adjacent, lightly grazed, uncolonized grassland. The ratio of cardon dioxide: net nitrogen mineralized, an index of immobilization, was highest in the uncolonized grassland and lowest in the altered core areas. Soil moisture was an important modifier of in situ field estimates of net nitrogen mineralization. Root biomass, an important carbon source for decomposers in perennial grasslands, was lowest in the altered core area and highest in the adjacent uncolonized grassland. Decreased nitrogen immobilization and increased net nitrogen mineralization in the laboratory incubations likely resulted from decreased root carbon inputs in grazed areas, which limited carbon availability to decomposers. Such increases in plant-available nitrogen may partially explain the frequency reported grazing-induced increases in shoot nitrogen concentrations. These studies suggest that carbon allocation to roots is a key link determining nitrogen-cycling responses to herbivory.