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Soil nitrate mediates the responses of plant community production to the frequency of N addition in a temperate grassland: a decadal field experiment

Abstract

Purpose

Nitrogen (N) enrichment through either artificial N application or atmospheric N deposition often increases ecosystem aboveground net primary productivity (ANPP). Therefore, results from N addition experiments have been used to assess the effects of atmospheric N deposition on ecosystems. However, the frequency of atmospheric N deposition is higher than that of artificial N addition. Whether the frequency of N addition alters the long-term response of ecosystem ANPP remains unclear.

Methods

We conducted a N addition frequency experiment from 2010 in a temperate grassland, northern China. Plant community ANPP was collected in 2019 and 2020, and soil physicochemical properties were measured in 2020.

Results

Plant community ANPP was significantly enhanced by N addition, whereas these increments declined with the frequency of N addition. The responses of the grasses ANPP were similar to those of the plant community ANPP. Forbs ANPP was not significantly altered. Meanwhile, soil ammonium and nitrate (NO3–N) concentrations decreased with increasing N addition frequency, while the soil water content (SWC) and pH were similar among the frequencies of N addition. Regardless of the frequency of N addition, SWC and soil NO3–N jointly promoted grasses ANPP, ultimately increasing the plant community ANPP.

Conclusion

Our findings demonstrate that the frequency of N addition affects plant community biomass production through altering soil nitrate concentration in the semi-arid grassland. Therefore, this study illustrates that a higher frequency of N addition is more suitable for assessing the long-term impacts of atmospheric N deposition on ecosystems.

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Data availability

The datasets are available from the corresponding author on reasonable request.

References

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Acknowledgements

We thank Xiaoliang Wang, Yanhui Zhang, Hongying, Li Yuqin Zong, and Huiling Tian for assistance and the anonymous reviewers for their insightful comments. We appreciate the Inner Mongolia Grassland Ecosystem Research Station for the experimental facility support. This work was funded by National Natural Science Foundation of China (32071603 and 32122055) and the Strategic Priority Research Program of the Chinese Academy of Sciences (XDA26020101).

Funding

This work was funded by National Natural Science Foundation of China (Grant numbers [32071603] and [32122055]) and the Strategic Priority Research Program of the Chinese Academy of Sciences (Grant numbers [XDA26020101]).

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Authors and Affiliations

Authors

Contributions

Yunhai Zhang contributed to the study conception and design. Data collection and analysis were performed by Changchun Song, Yuqiu Zhang, Zhengru Ren, Haining Lu, Xu Chen, Ruoxuan Liu, Jungang Chen, and Yunhai Zhang. The first draft of the manuscript was written by Changchun Song and all authors commented on previous versions of the manuscript. All authors read and approved the final manuscript.

Corresponding author

Correspondence to Yunhai Zhang.

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Competing interests

We declare no conflict of interests.

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Song, C., Zhang, Y., Ren, Z. et al. Soil nitrate mediates the responses of plant community production to the frequency of N addition in a temperate grassland: a decadal field experiment. Plant Soil (2022). https://doi.org/10.1007/s11104-022-05435-z

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  • DOI: https://doi.org/10.1007/s11104-022-05435-z

Keywords

  • Biomass production
  • Nitrogen addition frequency
  • Nitrogen deposition
  • Plant and soil interaction
  • Plant functional group
  • Soil moisture