Atmospheric nitrogen deposition on petals enhances seed quality of the forest herb Anemone nemorosa.
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Elevated atmospheric input of nitrogen (N) is currently affecting plant biodiversity and ecosystem functioning. The growth and survival of numerous plant species is known to respond strongly to N fertilization. Yet, few studies have assessed the effects of N deposition on seed quality and reproductive performance, which is an important life-history stage of plants. Here we address this knowledge gap by assessing the effects of atmospheric N deposition on seed quality of the ancient forest herb Anemone nemorosa using two complementary approaches. By taking advantage of the wide spatiotemporal variation in N deposition rates in pan-European temperate and boreal forests over two years, we detected positive effects of N deposition on the N concentration (percentage N per unit seed mass, increased from 2.8 to 4.1%) and N content (total N mass per seed, more than doubled) of A. nemorosa seeds. In a complementary experiment, we applied ammonium nitrate to aboveground plant tissues and the soil surface to determine whether dissolved N sources in precipitation could be incorporated into seeds. Although the addition of N to leaves and the soil surface had no effect, a concentrated N solution applied to petals during anthesis resulted in increased seed mass, seed N concentration and N content. Our results demonstrate that N deposition on the petals enhances bioaccumulation of N in the seeds of Anemone nemorosa. Enhanced atmospheric inputs of N can thus not only affect growth and population dynamics via root or canopy uptake, but can also influence seed quality and reproduction via intake through the inflorescences. This article is protected by copyright. All rights reserved.
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