Interactive effects of nitrogen and phosphorus additions on plant growth vary with ecosystem type

  • Jun Jiang
  • Ying-Ping Wang
  • Yanhua Yang
  • Mengxiao Yu
  • Chen Wang
  • Junhua YanEmail author
Regular Article



Co-limitation of ecosystem productivity by nitrogen (N) and phosphorus (P) is gaining increasing recognition, but how co-limitation through N and P interactions differs among different terrestrial ecosystems remains unclear.


We performed a meta-analysis of 133 independent studies conducted in four natural terrestrial ecosystems to examine the interactive effects of N and P additions on ten plant growth-related variables.


Adding N and P individually or in combination significantly increased aboveground biomass (AGB), and the interactions were uniformly synergistic for AGB, and additive for belowground biomass (BGB), but variable for other eight growth-related variables among four different ecosystems. The interaction was synergistic for leaf P and soil NO3-N only in tropical forests, and antagonistic for soil available P (AP) in tropical forests, leaf N in grasslands, root P in wetlands, and leaf P and soil NH4-N in tundra. The interaction for leaf N: P ratios was additive only in tropical forests, and synergistic in the other three ecosystems.


Our results highlighted the interactions of N and P additions can promote uptake of both nutrients by plants, and plants tend to maintain the optimal nutrient balance for growth and reproduction through regulating biomass production and tissue nutrient concentrations.


Interactions Meta-analysis Nutrient limitation Plant growth Terrestrial ecosystems 



We are grateful to all the researchers for their data used in this meta-analysis. Thanks are due to the subject editor and three anonymous reviewers for their constructive suggestions on improving the manuscript. This study was financially supported by the National Science Fund for Distinguished Young Scholars (41825020).

Author’s contributions

J J, Y-P W and J Y designed the research; J J, Y Y and M Y collected the data; J J and C W performed the analysis; J J, Y Y and Y-P W wrote the manuscript.

Compliance with ethical standards

Conflict of interest

The authors declare that no conflict of interest exits in the submission of this manuscript, and the manuscript is approved by all authors for publication.

Supplementary material

11104_2019_4119_MOESM1_ESM.docx (306 kb)
ESM 1 (DOCX 306 kb)


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© Springer Nature Switzerland AG 2019

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Key Laboratory of Vegetation Restoration and Management of Degraded Ecosystems, South China Botanical Garden, CASChinese Academy of SciencesGuangzhouChina
  2. 2.CSIRO Oceans and AtmosphereAspendaleAustralia
  3. 3.Guangdong Eco-Engineering PolytechnicGuangzhouChina
  4. 4.University of Chinese Academy of SciencesBeijingChina

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