, Volume 114, Issue 1-3, pp 93-120,
Open Access This content is freely available online to anyone, anywhere at any time.
Date: 20 Oct 2012

Interactive effects of anthropogenic nitrogen enrichment and climate change on terrestrial and aquatic biodiversity

Abstract

Biodiversity has been described as the diversity of life on earth within species, among species, and among ecosystems. The rate of biodiversity loss due to human activity in the last 50 years has been more rapid than at any other time in human history, and many of the drivers of biodiversity loss are increasing, including habitat loss, overexploitation, invasive species, climate change, and pollution, including pollution from reactive nitrogen (Nr). Of these stressors, climate change and Nr from anthropogenic activities are causing some of the most rapid changes. Climate change is causing warming trends that result in poleward and elevational range shifts of flora and fauna, and changes in phenology, particularly the earlier onset of spring events and migration, and lengthening of the growing season. Nitrogen (N) enrichment can enhance plant growth, but has been shown to favor, fast-growing, sometimes invasive, species over native species adapted to low N conditions. Although there have been only a few controlled studies on climate change and N interactions, inferences can be drawn from various field observations. For example, in arid ecosystems of southern California, elevated N deposition and changing precipitation patterns have promoted the conversion of native shrub communities to communities dominated by annual non-native grasses. Both empirical studies and modeling indicate that N and climate change can interact to drive losses in biodiversity greater than those caused by either stressor alone. Reducing inputs of anthropogenic Nr may be an effective mitigation strategy for protecting biodiversity in the face of climate change.