Selection of tree species with a high capacity to assimilate N and efficiently utilize N resources would facilitate the success of initial tree seedling establishment in infertile soils. The preference for N forms was tested using three pine species (Pinus densata, Pinus tabuliformis and Pinus yunnanensis). Pinus densata is a natural diploid hybrid between P. tabuliformis and P. yunnanensis.Methods
Seedlings of three pine species were supplied with nitrate-N, ammonium-N (at two different pH regimes) or combined ammonium and nitrate as a nitrogen source in perlite culture in a controlled environment.Important Findings
Seedlings of P. densata had higher total biomass and net photosynthesis when supplied with nitrate-N and ammonium nitrate than with ammonium-N. In parental species, total biomass and net photosynthesis for P. yunnanensis seedlings was higher in ammonium-N than in nitrate-N, whereas the other parental species P. tabuliformis had the highest total biomass among species for all treatments except ammonium with CaCO3. Most morphological traits in P. densata seedlings were intermediate between its two parental species. However, N-use efficiency and photosynthetic N-use efficiency of P. densata significantly exceeded both parents when supplied with nitrate-N and ammonium nitrate. The results suggested that the diploid hybrid tree species P. densata has a preference for nitrate and is not well adapted to ammonium-N as a sole nitrogen source regardless of the growth medium pH. Based on changes in environmental conditions, such as predicted future temperature increases in high altitude areas associated with climate change, P. densata is likely to be increasingly competitive and have wide adaptation in high altitude regions.