Date of Award


Document Type



Environmental and Forest Biology

Thesis Advisor

Mark Teece


Elevated human generated emissions to the atmosphere have historically increased inorganic nitrogen (N) deposition throughout the Adirondack Mountains of New York. Nitrogen is generally a limiting nutrient for the purple pitcher plant (Sarracenia purpurea). Our objective was to determine the dependence of S. purpurea on atmospherically-deposited and insect-derived N sources across an increasing nitrogen deposition gradient. Sampling was conducted at 10 sites, with 104 pitcher plants sampled. The impact of variations in nitrogen deposition on morphological characteristics and organic N content of S. purpurea and a non-carnivorous reference plant, Chamaedaphne calyculata (Leatherleaf), were examined. Pitcher plant flower and leatherleaf tissues were analyzed for stable nitrogen isotope (δ15N), and foliar N content. Increased nitrogen deposition up to 4.1 kgN*ha-1*yr-1 was correlated with increased plant size and δ15N values of S. purpurea; however, deposition exceeding these levels decreased overall plant size and δ15N values. Nitrogen derived from assimilation of insects ranged from 55% to 90% of foliar N at higher N deposition levels. Plants that acquired the greatest amount of N from insect consumption were also the largest plants. These results reflect the importance of monitoring ecologically sensitive species, like the purple pitcher plant, in light of anthropogenic sources of pollution.

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Chemistry Commons