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High frequency of extreme precipitation increases Stipa grandis biomass by altering plant and microbial nitrogen acquisition

Abstract

Climate changes are altering precipitation to more frequent extreme precipitation events that have strong impacts on the structure and functions of grassland ecosystems. We conducted a rain simulation experiment combined with in situ 15 N labeling of three nitrogen (N) forms (NO3, NH4+, glycine) to investigate how the frequency of extreme precipitation influences plant productivity and N acquisition (N uptake, 15 N recovery, and preference for N form) by the dominant species Stipa grandis and soil microorganisms in the temperate steppe. Extreme precipitation had three frequencies (1, 3, and 6 events for low, medium, and high frequency) with the same total rain amount in 1-month cycle. The low frequency reduced the S. grandis biomass by 39%, whereas the high ones raised the S. grandis biomass by 43% and increased plant and microbial N uptake up to 6.3-fold and 5.1-fold of those under ambient precipitation, respectively. Plants preferred NO3 and microorganisms preferred NH4+ under low frequency, but they showed similar preference for three N forms, leading to chemical niche overlap for NO3, NH4+, and glycine under high frequency. This indicated that high precipitation frequency effectively reduced the proportion of each N form, which plants and microorganisms competed for as the available N pool increased. Overall, the increase of precipitation frequency (decreasing intensity) shifted the extreme (low frequency but high intensity) to optimal conditions for plant productivity and N acquisition by plants and microorganisms in the temperate steppe. These findings provide new insights for understanding the diverse responses of ecosystem functions to extreme climate events.

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Acknowledgements

The authors thank Ruixue Wang for her assistance in the fieldwork.

Funding

This research was supported by the National Natural Science Foundation of China (Grant Nos. 41771325; 41877089), the Second Tibetan Plateau Scientific Expedition and Research Program (Grant No. 2019QZKK0405), the National Key Research and Development Program of China (Grant Nos. 2016YFC0500502; 2017YFA0604802), the Russian Government Program of Competitive Growth of Kazan Federal University and with the support of the RUDN University Strategic Academic Leadership Program.

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1. Yuqiang Tian and Xingliang Xu planned and designed the research.

2. Shuhai Wen and Shengnan Ouyang performed experiments and conducted fieldwork.

3. Shuhai Wen, Yuqiang Tian, Xingliang Xu, and Yakov Kuzyakov conducted data analysis and interpretation and wrote and revised the manuscript.

4. Shengnan Ouyang, Minghua Song, Xiaobing Li, Yong Zhang, and Si Gao revised the manuscript.

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Correspondence to Yuqiang Tian or Xingliang Xu.

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Wen, S., Tian, Y., Ouyang, S. et al. High frequency of extreme precipitation increases Stipa grandis biomass by altering plant and microbial nitrogen acquisition. Biol Fertil Soils 58, 63–75 (2022). https://doi.org/10.1007/s00374-021-01608-7

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  • DOI: https://doi.org/10.1007/s00374-021-01608-7

Keywords

  • Extreme precipitation
  • Nitrogen acquisition
  • Stipa grandis
  • Soil microorganisms
  • 15 N uptake
  • Plant-microbial preference for N form