, Volume 118, Issue 1–3, pp 141–157 | Cite as

Biodiversity effects on nitrate concentrations in soil solution: a Bayesian model

  • Sophia Leimer
  • Christian Wirth
  • Yvonne Oelmann
  • Wolfgang Wilcke


Ecosystems are faced with high rates of species loss which has consequences for their functions and services. To assess the effects of plant species diversity on the nitrogen (N) cycle, we developed a model for monthly mean nitrate (NO3-N) concentrations in soil solution in 0–30 cm mineral soil depth using plant species and functional group richness and functional composition as drivers and assessing the effects of conversion of arable land to grassland, spatially heterogeneous soil properties, and climate. We used monthly mean NO3-N concentrations from 62 plots of a grassland plant diversity experiment from 2003 to 2006. Plant species richness (1–60) and functional group composition (1–4 functional groups: legumes, grasses, non-leguminous tall herbs, non-leguminous small herbs) were manipulated in a factorial design. Plant community composition, time since conversion from arable land to grassland, soil texture, and climate data (precipitation, soil moisture, air and soil temperature) were used to develop one general Bayesian multiple regression model for the 62 plots to allow an in-depth evaluation using the experimental design. The model simulated NO3-N concentrations with an overall Bayesian coefficient of determination of 0.48. The temporal course of NO3-N concentrations was simulated differently well for the individual plots with a maximum plot-specific Nash–Sutcliffe Efficiency of 0.57. The model shows that NO3-N concentrations decrease with species richness, but this relation reverses if more than approx. 25 % of legume species are included in the mixture. Presence of legumes increases and presence of grasses decreases NO3-N concentrations compared to mixtures containing only small and tall herbs. Altogether, our model shows that there is a strong influence of plant community composition on NO3-N concentrations.


Nitrate in soil solution Biodiversity The Jena Experiment Bayesian model 



We thank the many people who helped with the management of the experiment and in particular the initiators, E.-D. Schulze, B. Schmid, and W. W. Weisser, as well as the scientific coordinators C. Roscher, A. Weigelt, and A. Ebeling. Thanks also to all the helpers who assisted during the weeding campaigns. We also thank Y. Kreutziger for providing soil data. The Jena Experiment is funded by the Deutsche Forschungsgemeinschaft (DFG, FOR 456 & 1451, Wi 1601/4) and the Swiss National Science Foundation (SNSF, 200021E-131195/1), with additional support from the Friedrich Schiller University Jena and the Max Planck Society. We thank the two reviewers for their valuable comments on the manuscript.


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Copyright information

© Springer Science+Business Media Dordrecht 2013

Authors and Affiliations

  • Sophia Leimer
    • 1
  • Christian Wirth
    • 2
  • Yvonne Oelmann
    • 3
  • Wolfgang Wilcke
    • 1
  1. 1.Geographic InstituteUniversity of BernBernSwitzerland
  2. 2.Institute of Biology, Special Botany and Functional Biodiversity ResearchUniversity of LeipzigLeipzigGermany
  3. 3.GeoecologyUniversity of TübingenTübingenGermany

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