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Nitrogen is a vital nutrient in forest ecosystems. Some plants can use nitrogen right out of the air; others require intermediate nitrogen-fixers (like fungi) to turn the nitrogen into a usable form.
Although nitrogen is a nutrient, it can also be a pollutant. Chronic deposition of atmospheric nitrogen, resulting from the combustion of fossil fuels, is a recent stress to New England forests and waterways.
Nitrogen measurements are a major part of the research at Harvard Forest, including research on: