Nodulation and ecological significance of indigenous legumes in Scotland and Sweden

Osei Y. Ampomah, Euan K. James, Pietro P.M. Iannetta, Gregory Kenicer, Janet I. Sprent, Kerstin Huss-Danell*

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

7 Citations (Scopus)


The ability of wild indigenous legumes to form root nodules capable of biological nitrogen (N 2) fixation has rarely been demonstrated for species in natural ecosystems in large parts of Europe. In order to understand and manage these ecosystems, it is important to demonstrate nodulation across a diverse range of environments, sites and climates. This study surveyed nodulation at a number of sites in Scotland and Sweden. Presence of nodules was noted and nodule structure and indicators of nitrogen fixation capacity were assessed using light and transmission electron microscopy. Soils from several sites were also sampled for carbon and nitrogen analysis. The collections comprised 24 species in Scotland, and 30 taxa in Sweden; 17 of these in common for both countries. Highest species numbers occurred in meadows, farmland margins, hedgerows, roadsides and wasteland. Coastal sites and sites in the mountainous region above the Arctic Circle hosted several rare species. All sampled species had features of N 2-fixing nodules such as pink colour (leghaemoglobin) when dissected and bacteroids. Nodule structure for a number of species is here reported for the first time and presence of the N 2-fixing enzyme nitrogenase is demonstrated in three previously not studied Swedish legume species. North European legumes may make significant contributions to the N-budgets of their ecosystems. Such species (and their symbionts) represent unique germplasm that may be adopted to empower advances in agriculture and conservation aimed at mitigation and adaptation to the effects of climate change.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)133-148
Number of pages16
Issue number3
Publication statusPublished - Jul 2012


  • Nitrogen fixation
  • Nitrogenase
  • Nodulation
  • Nodule structure
  • Root nodule bacteria
  • Wild legumes


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