, Volume 133, Issue 3, pp 295–305

Temporal variability of foliar nutrients: responses to nitrogen deposition and prescribed fire in a temperate steppe

  • Xiao-Tao Lü
  • Sasha Reed
  • Shuang-Li Hou
  • Yan-Yu Hu
  • Hai-Wei Wei
  • Fu-Mei Lü
  • Qiang Cui
  • Xing-Guo Han

DOI: 10.1007/s10533-017-0333-x

Cite this article as:
Lü, XT., Reed, S., Hou, SL. et al. Biogeochemistry (2017) 133: 295. doi:10.1007/s10533-017-0333-x


Plant nutrient concentrations and stoichiometry drive fundamental ecosystem processes, with important implications for primary production, diversity, and ecosystem sustainability. While a range of evidence exists regarding how plant nutrients vary across spatial scales, our understanding of their temporal variation remains less well understood. Nevertheless, we know nutrients regulate plant function across time, and that important temporal controls could strongly interact with environmental change. Here, we report results from a 3-year assessment of inter-annual changes of foliar nitrogen (N) and phosphorus (P) concentrations and stoichiometry in three dominant grasses in response to N deposition and prescribed fire in a temperate steppe of northern China. Foliar N and P concentrations and their ratios varied greatly among years, with this temporal variation strongly related to inter-annual variation in precipitation. Nitrogen deposition significantly increased foliar N concentrations and N:P ratios in all species, while fire significantly altered foliar N and P concentrations but had no significant impacts on N:P ratios. Generally, N addition enhanced the temporal stability of foliar N and decreased that of foliar P and of N:P ratios. Our results indicate that plant nutrient status and response to environmental change are temporally dynamic and that there are differential effects on the interactions between environmental change drivers and timing for different nutrients. These responses have important implications for consideration of global change effects on plant community structure and function, management strategies, and the modeling of biogeochemical cycles under global change scenarios.


Ecological stoichiometry Ecosystem stability Inter-annual variation N:P ratio Nutrient limitation Primary productivity Semiarid grassland 

Funding information

Funder NameGrant NumberFunding Note
National Natural Science Foundation of China
  • 31470505 and 41273094

Copyright information

© Springer International Publishing Switzerland 2017

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Erguna Forest-Steppe Ecotone Research Station, CAS Key Laboratory of Forest Ecology and Management, Institute of Applied EcologyChinese Academy of SciencesShenyangChina
  2. 2.Southwest Biological Science CenterUS Geological SurveyMoabUSA
  3. 3.University of Chinese Academy of SciencesBeijingChina
  4. 4.State Key Laboratory of Vegetation and Environmental Change, Institute of BotanyChinese Academy of SciencesBeijingChina

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