Environmental Earth Sciences

, Volume 62, Issue 6, pp 1163–1171 | Cite as

Effects of nitrogen fertilization on soil respiration in temperate grassland in Inner Mongolia, China

  • Qin Peng
  • Yunshe DongEmail author
  • Yuchun Qi
  • Shengsheng Xiao
  • Yating He
  • Tao Ma
Original Article


Nitrogen addition to soil can play a vital role in influencing the losses of soil carbon by respiration in N-deficient terrestrial ecosystems. The aim of this study was to clarify the effects of different levels of nitrogen fertilization (HN, 200 kg N ha−1 year−1; MN, 100 kg N ha−1 year−1; LN, 50 kg N ha−1 year−1) on soil respiration compared with non-fertilization (CK, 0 kg N ha−1 year−1), from July 2007 to September 2008, in temperate grassland in Inner Mongolia, China. Results showed that N fertilization did not change the seasonal patterns of soil respiration, which were mainly controlled by soil heat-water conditions. However, N fertilization could change the relationships between soil respiration and soil temperature, and water regimes. Soil respiration dependence on soil moisture was increased by N fertilization, and the soil temperature sensitivity was similar in the treatments of HN, LN, and CK treatments (Q 10 varied within 1.70–1.74) but was slightly reduced in MN treatment (Q 10 = 1.63). N fertilization increased soil CO2 emission in the order MN > HN > LN compared with the CK treatment. The positive effects reached a significant level for HN and MN (P < 0.05) and reached a marginally significant level for LN (P = 0.059 < 0.1) based on the cumulative soil respiration during the 2007 growing season after fertilization (July–September 2007). Furthermore, the differences between the three fertilization treatments and CK reached the very significant level of 0.01 on the basis of the data during the first entire year after fertilization (July 2007–June 2008). The annual total soil respiration was 53, 57, and 24% higher than in the CK plots (465 g m−2 year−1). However, the positive effects did not reach the significant level for any treatment in the 2008 growing season after the second year fertilization (July–September 2008, P > 0.05). The pairwise differences between the three N-level treatments were not significant in either year (P > 0.05).


Soil respiration Nitrogen fertilization Temperate grassland China 



This work was financially supported by the National Natural Science Foundation of China (Grant No: 40730105, 40673067 and 40501072), and the Ministry of Science and Technology of China (Grant No: 2007BAC03A11). We are grateful to the Inner Mongolia Grassland Ecosystem Research Station (IMGERS) for providing the experimental sites to the research team.


  1. Aber JD, Nadelhoffer K, Steudler P et al (1989) Nitrogen saturation in northern forest ecosystems. Bioscience 39:378–386CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  2. Al-Kaisi MM, Kruse ML, Sawyer JE (2008) Effect of nitrogen fertilizer application on growing season soil carbon dioxide emission in a corn-soybean rotation. J Environ Qual 37:325–332CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  3. Boone RD, Nadelhoffer KJ, Canary JD et al (1998) Roots exert a strong influence on the temperature sensitivity of soil respiration. Nature 396:570–572CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  4. Bowden RD, Rullo G, Stevens GR et al (2000) Soil fluxes of carbon dioxide, nitrous oxide, and methane at a productive temperate deciduous forest. J Environ Qual 29:268–276CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  5. Bowden RD, Davidson E, Savage K et al (2004) Chronic nitrogen additions reduce total soil respiration and microbial respiration in temperate forest soils at the Harvard Forest. For Ecol Manage 196:43–56CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  6. Burton AJ, Pregitzer KS, Crawford JN et al (2004) Simulated chronic NO3 addition reduces soil respiration in northern hardwood forests. Glob Change Biol 10:1080–1091CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  7. Cao G, Tang Y, Mo W et al (2004) Grazing intensity alters soil respiration in an alpine meadow on the Tibetan plateau. Soil Biol Biochem 36:237–243CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  8. Chen Z, Wang S (2000) Typical steppe ecosystems of China. Science Press, BeijingGoogle Scholar
  9. Clayton H, Arah JRM, Smith KA (1994) Measurements of nitrous oxide emissions from fertilized grassland using closed chambers. J Geophys Res 99:16599–16607CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  10. Coleman MD, Friend AL, Kern CC (2004) Carbon allocation and nitrogen acquisition in a developing Populus deltoides plantation. Tree Physiol 24:1347–1357Google Scholar
  11. Compton JE, Watrud LS, Porteous LA et al (2004) Response of soil microbial biomass and community composition to chronic nitrogen additions at Harvard Forest. For Ecol Manage 196:143–158CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  12. Conant RT, Steinweg JM, Haddix ML et al (2008) Experimental warming shows that decomposition temperature sensitivity increases with soil organic matter recalcitrance. Ecology 89:2384–2391CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  13. Craine JM, Morrow C, Fierer N (2007) Microbial nitrogen limitation increases decomposition. Ecology 88:2105–2113CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  14. Davidson EA, Janssens IA, Luo Y (2006) On the variability of respiration in terrestrial ecosystems: moving beyond Q 10. Glob Change Biol 12:154–164CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  15. de Jong E (1974) Carbon dioxide evolution from virgin and cultivated soil as affected by management practices and climate. Can J Soil Sci 54:299–307CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  16. Ding W, Cai Y, Cai Z et al (2007) Soil respiration under maize crops: Effects of water, temperature, and nitrogen fertilization. Soil Sci Soc Am J 71:944–951CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  17. Dong Y, Zhang S, Qi Y et al (2000) Fluxes of CO2, N2O and CH4 from a typical temperate grassland in Inner Mongolia and its daily variation. Chin Sci Bull 45:1590–1594CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  18. Dong Y, Qi Y, Liu J et al (2005) Variation characteristics of soil respiration fluxes in four types of grassland communities under different precipitation intensity. Chin Sci Bull 50:583–591Google Scholar
  19. Eliasson PE, McMurtrie RE, Pepper DA et al (2005) The response of heterotrophic CO2 flux to soil warming. Glob Change Biol 11:167–181CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  20. Fang C, Moncrieff JB (2001) The dependence of soil CO2 efflux on temperature. Soil Biol Biochem 33:155–165CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  21. Fang J, Liu S, Zhao K (1998) Factors affecting soil respiration in reference with temperature’s role in the globe scale. Chin Geogr Sci 8(3):246–255CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  22. Frey SD, Knorr M, Parrent J et al (2004) Chronic nitrogen enrichment affects the structure and function of the soil microbial community in a forest ecosystem. For Ecol Manage 196:159–171CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  23. Gallardo A, Schlesinger WH (1994) Factors limiting microbial biomass in the mineral soil and forest floor of a warm-temperate forest. Soil Biol Biochem 26:1409–1415CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  24. Galloway JN, Levy H II, Kasibhatla PS (1994) Year 2020: consequences of population growth and development on the deposition of oxidized nitrogen. Ambio 23:120–123Google Scholar
  25. Hart SC, Stark JM (1997) Nitrogen limitation of the microbial biomass in an old-growth forest soil. Ecoscience 4:91–98Google Scholar
  26. Hooper DU, Johnson L (1999) Nitrogen limitation in dryland ecosystems: responses to geographical and temporal variation in precipitation. Biogeochemistry 46:247–293Google Scholar
  27. Houghton RA (2002) Terrestrial carbon sinks—uncertain explanations. Biologist 49:155–160Google Scholar
  28. Jia B, Zhou G, Wang Y et al (2006) Effects of temperature and soil water-content on soil respiration of grazed andungrazed Leymus chinensis steppes, Inner Mongolia. J Arid Environ 67:60–76CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  29. Joffre R, Ourcival JM, Rambal S et al (2003) The key-role of topsoil moisture on CO2 efflux from a Mediterranean Quercus ilex forest. Ann For Sci 60:519–526CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  30. Jones SK, Rees RM, Kosmas D et al (2006) Carbon sequestration in a temperate grassland: management and climatic controls. Soil Use Manage 22:132–142CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  31. Kang L, Han X, Zhang Z et al (2007) Grassland ecosystems in China: review of current knowledge and research advancement. Philos Trans R Soc Lond B Biol Sci 362:997–1008CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  32. Liljeroth E, Van Veen JA, Miliier HJ (1990) Assimilate translocation to the rhizosphere of two wheat lines and subsequent utilization by rhizosphere microorganisms at two soil nitrogen concentrations. Soil Biol Biochem 22:1015–1021CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  33. Lovell RD, Hatch DJ (1998) Stimulation of microbial activity following spring applications of nitrogen. Biol Fertil Soils 26:28–30CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  34. Luo Y, Wan S, Hui D et al (2001) Acclimatization of soil respiration to warming in a tall grass prairie. Nature 413:622–625CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  35. Magill AH, Aber JD (1998) Long-term effects of experimental nitrogen additions on foliar litter decay and humus formation. Plant Soil 203:301–311CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  36. Magill AH, Aber JD, Hendricks JJ et al (1997) Biogeochemical response of forest ecosystems to simulated chronic nitrogen deposition. Ecol Appl 7:402–415CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  37. Malhi SS, Harapiak JT, Nyborg M et al (2003) Total and light fraction organic C in a thin Black Chernozemic grassland soil as affected by 27 annual applications of six rates of fertilizer N. Fertil Res 66:33–41Google Scholar
  38. Marland G, Boden TA, Andres RJ (2000) Global, regional and national fossil fuel CO2 emissions. In: Trends: a compendium of date on global change. Oak Ridge National Laboratory, Oak Ridge, TennesseeGoogle Scholar
  39. Micks P, Aber JD, Boone RD et al (2004) Short-term soil respiration and nitrogen immobilization response tonitrogen applications in control and nitrogen-enriched temperate forests. For Ecol Manage 196:57–70CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  40. Mo J, Zhang W, Zhu W et al (2008) Nitrogen addition reduces soil respiration in a mature tropical forest in southern China. Glob Change Biol 14:403–412CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  41. Mosier AR, Morgan JA, King JY et al (2002) Soil-atmosphere exchange of CH4, CO2, NOx, and N2O in the Colorado Shortgrass Steppe under Elevated CO2. Plant Soil 240:201–211CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  42. Nadelhoffer KJ, Downs MR, Fry B (1999) Sinks for N additions to an oak forest and a red pine plantation. Ecol Appl 9:72–86CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  43. Olsson P, Linder S, Giesler R et al (2005) Fertilization of boreal forest reduces both autotrophic and heterotrophic soil respiration. Glob Change Biol 11:1745–1763CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  44. Phillips RP, Fahey TJ (2007) Fertilization effects on fine root biomass, rhizosphere microbes and respiratory fluxes in hardwood forest soils. New Phytol 176:655–664CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  45. Qi Y, Dong Y, Liu J et al (2007) Effect of the conversion of grassland to spring wheat field on the CO2 emission characteristics in Inner Mongolia, China. Soil Till Res 94:310–320CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  46. Raich JW, Potter CS (1995) Global patterns of carbon dioxide emissions from soils. Glob Biogeochem Cycles 9:23–36CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  47. Raich JW, Schlesinger WH (1992) The global carbon dioxide flux in soil respiration and its relationship to vegetation and climate. Tellus 44B:81–99Google Scholar
  48. Söderstrõm B, Bääth E, Lundgren B (1983) Decreases in soil microbial activity and biomass owing to nitrogen amendments. Can J Microbiol 29:1500–1506CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  49. Sun HL (2005) Ecosystems of China. Science Press, BeijingGoogle Scholar
  50. Vose JM, Ryan MG (2002) Seasonal respiration of foliage, fine roots, and woody tissues in relation to growth, tissue N, and photosynthesis. Glob Change Biol 8:182–193CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  51. Wang WJ, Baldock JA, Dalal RC et al (2004) Decomposition dynamics of plant materials in relation to nitrogen availability and biochemistry determined by NMR and wet-chemical analysis. Soil Biol Biochem 36:2045–2058CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  52. Xu W, Wan S (2008) Water- and plant-mediated responses of soil respiration to topography, fire, and nitrogen fertilization in a semiarid grassland in northern China. Soil Biol Biochem 40:679–687CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  53. Zhang J, Han X (2008) N2O emission from the semi-arid ecosystem under mineral fertilizer (urea and superphosphate) and Increased precipitation in northern China. Atmos Environ 42:291–302CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  54. Zhang Q, Zak JC (1998) Effects of water and nitrogen amendment on soil microbial biomass and fine root production in a semi-arid environment in West Texas. Soil Biol Biochem 30:39–45CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  55. Zou J, Huang Y, Zheng X et al (2004) Static opaque chamber-based technique for determination of net exchange ofCO2 between terrestrial ecosystem and atmosphere. Chin Sci Bull 49:381–388Google Scholar

Copyright information

© Springer-Verlag 2010

Authors and Affiliations

  • Qin Peng
    • 1
    • 2
  • Yunshe Dong
    • 1
    Email author
  • Yuchun Qi
    • 1
  • Shengsheng Xiao
    • 1
    • 2
  • Yating He
    • 1
    • 2
  • Tao Ma
    • 3
  1. 1.Institute of Geographic Sciences and Natural Resources ResearchChinese Academy of SciencesBeijingChina
  2. 2.Graduate School of the Chinese Academy of SciencesBeijingChina
  3. 3.College of Resource and Environment ScienceNorthwestern Agricultural and Forestry UniversityYanglingChina

Personalised recommendations