1 To ascertain the influence of different plant species on nitrogen (N) cyc
ling, we performed a long-term garden experiment with six grasses and five
dicots with different potential growth rates, that are adapted to habitats
with different nutrient supplies. We measured in situ N mineralization and
nitrification of the soil under monocultures of each species during the fou
rth year of the experiment.
2 We focused on the effects of the different species on (i) annual net N mi
neralization; (ii) the seasonal pattern of N mineralization; and (iii) the
fraction of the total N mineralization that is nitrified. Our hypothesis wa
s that plant species of nutrient-rich habitats would enhance the N minerali
zation compared with species of nutrient-poor habitats.
3 The results demonstrate a strong influence of the species on net N minera
lization and net nitrification, both of which fluctuated strongly during th
e year. Overall, species from high fertility habitats increased N mineraliz
ation and nitrification more than species from low fertility habitats. Abou
t 90% of the mineralized ammonium was oxidized to nitrate. There was no sig
nificant difference in this proportion in the plots of species from nutrien
t-rich, moderate and nutrient-poor habitats.