Plant and Soil

, Volume 433, Issue 1–2, pp 243–255 | Cite as

Plant organic N uptake maintains species dominance under long-term warming

  • Lili JiangEmail author
  • Shiping Wang
  • Pang Zhe
  • Xingliang Xu
  • Paul Kardol
  • Yaoming Li
  • Lirong Zhang
  • Yanfen WangEmail author
  • Zhong Lei
  • Zhichun Lan
  • Paul W. Hill
  • Zhenhua Zhang
  • Caiyun Luo
  • Yichao Rui
  • Dong Ning
  • Davey L. Jones
Regular Article


Background and aims

There is ample experimental evidence for shifts in plant community composition under climate warming. To date, however, the underlying mechanisms driving these compositional shifts remain poorly understood.


The amount and form of nitrogen (N) available to plants are among the primary factors limiting productivity and plant coexistence in terrestrial ecosystems. We conducted a short-term 15N tracer experiment in a ten-year warming and grazing experiment in an alpine grassland to investigate the effects of warming and grazing on plant uptake of NO3-N, NH4+-N, and glycine-N. Four dominant plant species (Kobresia humilis, Potentilla anseria, Elymus nutans, Poa annua) were selected. Results We found that 10-years of warming decreased plant uptake of inorganic N by up to 80% in all species. In contrast, warming increased the uptake of organic N in K. humilis, P. anseria, and E. nutans but not in P. annua. Results showed that plant relative biomass increased hyperbolically with the ratio of the plant species total uptake of available N and plant community uptake of available N. And a significant positive correlation between plant species uptake of soil glycine-N and the uptake of total available N.


The stable relative biomass of plant species is largely dependent on organic N uptake by plants. We conclude that plant organic N uptake maintains species dominance under long-term warming.


Plant N uptake Alpine grassland The Tibet plateau Plant species coexistence 



This work was supported by funding from the Strategic Priority Research Program of Chinese Academy of Sciences (XDA20050104), the National Key Research and Development Program of China (2016YFC0501802), the National Science Foundation of China (31672474, 41731175, 31872994, 31770524), Key program of Tibet Department of Science and Technology, and the NRN-LCEE Sêr Cymru Climate-Smart Grasslands Project.

Supplementary material

11104_2018_3836_MOESM1_ESM.docx (564 kb)
ESM 1 (DOCX 564 kb)


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Copyright information

© Springer Nature Switzerland AG 2018

Authors and Affiliations

  • Lili Jiang
    • 1
    Email author
  • Shiping Wang
    • 1
    • 2
  • Pang Zhe
    • 3
  • Xingliang Xu
    • 4
  • Paul Kardol
    • 5
  • Yaoming Li
    • 1
  • Lirong Zhang
    • 1
  • Yanfen Wang
    • 3
    Email author
  • Zhong Lei
    • 6
  • Zhichun Lan
    • 7
  • Paul W. Hill
    • 8
  • Zhenhua Zhang
    • 9
  • Caiyun Luo
    • 9
  • Yichao Rui
    • 10
  • Dong Ning
    • 11
  • Davey L. Jones
    • 8
  1. 1.Key Laboratory of Alpine Ecology, Institute of Tibetan Plateau ResearchChinese Academy of SciencesBeijingChina
  2. 2.CAS Center for Excellence in Tibetan Plateau Earth Science of the Chinese Academy of SciencesBeijingChina
  3. 3.College of Life SciencesUniversity of the Chinese Academy of SciencesBeijingChina
  4. 4.Key Laboratory of Ecosystem Network Observation and Modelling, Institute of Geographic Sciences and Natural Resources Researchthe Chinese Academy of SciencesBeijingChina
  5. 5.Department of Forest Ecology and ManagementSwedish University of Agricultural SciencesUmeåSweden
  6. 6.School of Environmental Science and EngineeringUniversity/China-Australia Centre for Sustainable Urban DevelopmentTianjinChina
  7. 7.Center for Watershed Ecology, Institute of Life SciencesNanchang UniversityNanchangChina
  8. 8.School of Environment, Natural Resources and GeographyBangor UniversityGwyneddUK
  9. 9.Northwest Institute of Plateau Biology, Key Laboratory of Adaptation and Evolution of Plateau BiotaChinese Academy of SciencesXiningChina
  10. 10.School of Earth and Environment and Institute of Agriculture Crawley, AUSUniversity of Western Australia Faculty of LawPerthAustralia
  11. 11.Geography and Environmental Sciences (SAGES), Centre for Past Climate Change and School of ArchaeologyUniversity of Reading, ReadingReadingUK

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