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Plant organic N uptake maintains species dominance under long-term warming

Abstract

Background and aims

There is ample experimental evidence for shifts in plant community composition under climate warming. To date, however, the underlying mechanisms driving these compositional shifts remain poorly understood.

Methods

The amount and form of nitrogen (N) available to plants are among the primary factors limiting productivity and plant coexistence in terrestrial ecosystems. We conducted a short-term 15N tracer experiment in a ten-year warming and grazing experiment in an alpine grassland to investigate the effects of warming and grazing on plant uptake of NO3-N, NH4+-N, and glycine-N. Four dominant plant species (Kobresia humilis, Potentilla anseria, Elymus nutans, Poa annua) were selected. Results We found that 10-years of warming decreased plant uptake of inorganic N by up to 80% in all species. In contrast, warming increased the uptake of organic N in K. humilis, P. anseria, and E. nutans but not in P. annua. Results showed that plant relative biomass increased hyperbolically with the ratio of the plant species total uptake of available N and plant community uptake of available N. And a significant positive correlation between plant species uptake of soil glycine-N and the uptake of total available N.

Conclusions

The stable relative biomass of plant species is largely dependent on organic N uptake by plants. We conclude that plant organic N uptake maintains species dominance under long-term warming.

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Acknowledgements

This work was supported by funding from the Strategic Priority Research Program of Chinese Academy of Sciences (XDA20050104), the National Key Research and Development Program of China (2016YFC0501802), the National Science Foundation of China (31672474, 41731175, 31872994, 31770524), Key program of Tibet Department of Science and Technology, and the NRN-LCEE Sêr Cymru Climate-Smart Grasslands Project.

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Correspondence to Lili Jiang or Yanfen Wang.

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Responsible Editor: Eric Paterson.

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Jiang, L., Wang, S., Zhe, P. et al. Plant organic N uptake maintains species dominance under long-term warming. Plant Soil 433, 243–255 (2018). https://doi.org/10.1007/s11104-018-3836-x

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  • DOI: https://doi.org/10.1007/s11104-018-3836-x

Keywords

  • Plant N uptake
  • Alpine grassland
  • The Tibet plateau
  • Plant species coexistence