, Volume 191, Issue 3, pp 685–696 | Cite as

Drought sensitivity of aboveground productivity in Leymus chinensis meadow steppe depends on drought timing

  • Bo Meng
  • Baoku Shi
  • Shangzhi Zhong
  • Hua Chai
  • Shuixiu Li
  • Yunbo Wang
  • Hugh A. L. Henry
  • Jian-Ying MaEmail author
  • Wei SunEmail author
Global change ecology – original research


There is limited understanding of the combined effects of discrete climate extremes and chronic environmental changes on ecosystem processes and functioning. We assessed the interactions of extreme drought timing (45 days, in spring or summer) and nitrogen (N) addition in a full factorial field experiment in a Leymus chinensis-dominated meadow steppe in northeast China. We evaluated the resistance and recovery of the grassland (calculated in terms of aboveground biomass) to these two drought events. The spring drought reduced aboveground biomass by 28% in the unfertilized plots and by 33% in the fertilized plots, and the effects persisted during the subsequent post-drought period within the same growing season; however, the summer drought had no significant influence on aboveground biomass. Although there were no significant interactive effects between drought timing and N addition, we observed a potential trend of N addition increasing the proportion of aboveground biomass suppressed by spring drought but not summer drought. Moreover, the drought resistance of the aboveground biomass was positively correlated with the response of the belowground biomass to drought. One year after the extreme drought events, the spring drought effects on aboveground and belowground biomass were negligible. Our results indicate that the drought sensitivity of productivity likely depends on the phenological and morphological traits of the single highly dominant species (Leymus chinensis) in this meadow steppe.


Climate extremes Drought timing Nitrogen addition Aboveground biomass productivity Root–shoot ratio 



This study was supported by the National Key Basic Research Program of China (2015CB150800), National Natural Science Foundation of China (31570470, 41671207, 31700449), the Fundamental Research Funds for the Central Universities (2412018ZD010).

Author contribution statement

WS and BM designed the experiment. BM, HC and SL performed the field and laboratory work. BM analyzed the data. WS, BM and BS wrote the manuscript. HH, SZ, YW and JM provided valuable comments and suggestions on draft. HH improved English writing quality.

Compliance with ethical standards

Conflict of interest

The authors declare that they have no conflict of interest.

Supplementary material

442_2019_4506_MOESM1_ESM.docx (535 kb)
Supplementary material 1 (DOCX 535 kb)


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Copyright information

© Springer-Verlag GmbH Germany, part of Springer Nature 2019

Authors and Affiliations

  • Bo Meng
    • 1
  • Baoku Shi
    • 1
  • Shangzhi Zhong
    • 1
  • Hua Chai
    • 1
  • Shuixiu Li
    • 1
  • Yunbo Wang
    • 1
    • 2
  • Hugh A. L. Henry
    • 3
  • Jian-Ying Ma
    • 4
    Email author
  • Wei Sun
    • 1
    Email author
  1. 1.Key Laboratory for Vegetation Ecology, Institute of Grassland ScienceNortheast Normal University, Ministry of EducationChangchunPeople’s Republic of China
  2. 2.Key Laboratory of Grassland Resources, College of Grassland, Resources and EnvironmentInner Mongolia Agricultural University, Ministry of EducationHohhotPeople’s Republic of China
  3. 3.Department of BiologyUniversity of Western OntarioLondonCanada
  4. 4.CAS Key Laboratory of Biogeography and Bioresource in Arid Land, Xinjiang Institute of Ecology and GeographyUrumqiPeople’s Republic of China

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