Bedrock nitrogen weathering stimulates biological nitrogen fixation

Authors: Katherine A. Dynarski  Scott L. Morford  Scott A. Mitchell  Benjamin Z. Houlton

Global ecosystem models suggest that bedrock nitrogen (N) weathering contributes 10–20% of total N inputs to the natural terrestrial biosphere and >38% of ecosystem N supplies in temperate forests specifically. Yet, the role of rock N weathering in shaping ecological processes and biogeochemical fluxes is largely unknown. Here, we show that temperate forest ecosystems underlain by N‐rich bedrock exhibit higher free‐living N fixation rates than similar forests residing on N‐poor parent materials, across sites experiencing a range of climate and tectonic regimes. This seemingly counterintuitive result can be explained by increased accumulation of soil C and P in high bedrock N sites, resulting in increased energy inputs and nutrient supplies to N fixing microorganisms. Our findings advance a novel ecosystem biogeochemical framework that recognizes long‐term plant–soil–microbe feedbacks in shaping biogeochemical processes, with potentially widespread implications given the global distribution of bedrock N across Earth's terrestrial biomes.

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