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Increased precipitation induces a positive plant-soil feedback in a semi-arid grassland

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Abstract

Background and Aims

Given that plant growth is often water limited in drylands, it has been proposed that water seems to influence productivity by altering physiological/metabolic responses and nutrient availability in short term. It is unclear, however, whether water mediates a positive plant-soil feedback and whether the feedback drives variations in plant productivity.

Methods

A 4-year field experiment was performed to examine the effects of water and nitrogen (N) addition on nutrient concentrations in soil and plant, nutrient resorption and potential return, in a temperate grassland in northern China.

Results

Water addition enhanced plant N and phosphorus (P) concentrations but reduced plant N and P resorption efficiency, leading to the increased potential N and P return to soil via litterfall. Enhanced nutrient potential return likely contributed to an increase of plant productivity in the following year. These “fertilization effects” caused by water addition were similar to those by N addition.

Conclusions

Our study suggests that the positive plant-soil feedback induced by increased precipitation may have a role in water-induced increases in productivity, and highlights the “fertilization effect” of water addition in a semiarid grassland in short term.

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Acknowledgments

We thank Dr. Lixin Wang for his valuable comments, and Dr. Ang Li for the statistical assistance. This research was financially supported by the National Natural Science Foundation of China (41073056, 31300387 and 31370009), the National Basic Research Program of China (973 Program) (2009CB421102), Hundred Talents Program (Y1SRC211S1) and a project funded by China Postdoctoral Science Foundation. We also appreciate the Duolun Restoration Ecology Research Station for access permission to the study site and technical assistance.

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Corresponding authors

Correspondence to Haiyan Ren, Jianhui Huang or Yunting Fang.

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Responsible Editor: Harry Olde Venterink.

Appendixes

Appendixes

Appendix A

Table 3 Results (F value) from multiple ANOVAs with split-plot design that predict leaf nutrient concentrations, resorption efficiency and potential return

Appendix B

Table 4 Results (F value) from multiple ANOVAs with split-plot design that predict stem nutrient concentrations, resorption efficiency and potential return

Appendix C

Fig. 5
figure 5

Litter C:N ratio (the ratio of carbon 507 to nitrogen concentration) and nutrient 508 pools in green plant tissues subjected to the four treatments: control, water addition, N 509 addition and combined water and N addition. (a) C:N ratio in senescent leaves and stems. 510 Differences between the treatments and the control were significant for all species (P < 0.01). 511 (b, c) N and phosphorus (P) pools in green leaves and stems, which were calculated as the product of the individual organ biomass (g m-2) and its nutrient concentration (mg g-1512 ).513 Nutrient pools of the two dominant species (Sk and Ac) showed significant treatment effects 514 compared to the control (P < 0.05). Data are means ± SE, where sample size is 3 in all 515 treatments. Hatched bars denote stem; bars without stripes denote leaf. Abbreviations: Sk, 516 Stipa krylovii; Ac, Agropyron cristatum; Pt, Potentilla tanacetifolia; Mr, Melilotoides 517 ruthenica; Cs, Cleistogenes squarrosa.

Appendix D

Fig. 6
figure 6

The relationship between 520 community aboveground biomass and soil N521 availability. Data are means ± SE, with five replicates in each treatment. Open circles, the522 control; pink circles, water addition; green triangles, N addition; blue diamonds, water plus N 523 addition.

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Ren, H., Xu, Z., Huang, J. et al. Increased precipitation induces a positive plant-soil feedback in a semi-arid grassland. Plant Soil 389, 211–223 (2015). https://doi.org/10.1007/s11104-014-2349-5

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