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Changes of community composition strengthen the positive effects of nitrogen deposition on litter N:P stoichiometry in a semi-arid grassland

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The stoichiometric traits of litter play an important role in driving litter decomposition and ecosystem nutrient cycling. While the impacts of nitrogen (N) deposition on the species-level litter stoichiometric traits have been well addressed, we know little about that at community-level, which is supposed to be driven by both intra-specific variation and changes in community composition.


We examined the effects of N deposition on litter phosphorus (P) concentration and N:P ratio at both species- and community-level in a semi-arid grassland of northern China. We further decomposed the community-level variations of litter nutritional traits into intra- and inter-specific variation.


Nitrogen addition, especially at high rates, substantially changed community composition. Litter P concentrations and N:P ratios significantly varied among different species. Litter P concentrations and N:P ratios at both species- and community-level were positively correlated with N addition rates. Biomass-weighted community-level N:P ratios were more sensitive to N addition than the non-weighted ones, indicating that community composition strengthened the positive impacts of N addition on litter N:P ratios. There was positive co-variation between intra- and inter-specific variation for litter N:P ratio, indicating the consistency of community composition and intra-specific variation in their effects on litter N:P ratio.


Our results indicated that the imbalance of N and P following N enrichment would be much larger than the expectation based on the findings from species-level, and thus highlight the importance of changes in community composition in driving the responses of community-level litter N:P stoichiometry to N deposition in the semi-arid grassland.

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We are grateful to the Inner Mongolia Grassland Ecosystem Research Station for supporting field work. We thank Chenxi Tian, Sihan Liu, Yi Wu, and Yue Sun for assistance with laboratory work. Comments and suggestions from two anonymous reviewers help improve the quality of this manuscript. This work was supported by the National Natural Science Foundation of China (31822006, 31770503, and 31901141), National Key Research and Development Program of China (2016YFC0500601), K.C.Wong Education Foundation (GJTD-2019-10), Key Research Program from CAS (QYZDB-SSW-DQC006), Liaoning Revitalizing Talents Program (XLYC1807061), and Shenyang Science and Technology Bureau (RC180320), and Youth Innovation Promotion Association CAS (2014174). Authors declare no conflict of interests.

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Hou, SL., Yang, JJ., Yin, JX. et al. Changes of community composition strengthen the positive effects of nitrogen deposition on litter N:P stoichiometry in a semi-arid grassland. Plant Soil 473, 63–71 (2022).

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