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Effects of water supply on plant stoichiometry of C, N, P in Inner Mongolia grasslands

Abstract

Aims

Plant stoichiometry is known to influence ecological processes and element cycles in ecosystems, which in turn can all be affected by ongoing climate change. While previous studies mainly focused on warming, drought or species invasion, effects of changing water supply on plant stoichiometry have not been well explored.

Methods

To study how water supply affects plant stoichiometry (here C:N, N:P), and whether such effects differ among plant species, a manipulative experiment was conducted in which four grass species (Leymus chinensis, Stipa grandis, Artemisia frigida and Potentilla acaulis) dominant in the Inner Mongolia steppe were subjected to a gradient of water supply via changes in growing-season rainfall.

Results

Water supply significantly impacted C:N and N:P, and these effects differed among grass species. Specifically, while C:N of A. frigida and P. acaulis was unaffected by water supply, C:N of L. chinensis and S. grandis increased with increasing precipitation. Furthermore, N:P of A. frigida showed a unimodal pattern along the imposed precipitation gradient. Whereas aboveground and belowground N:P showed similar trends (but different patterns) with changing water supply, this was not the case for aboveground and belowground C:N. As a result, plant stoichiometry between aboveground and belowground parts followed an allometric pattern.

Conclusions

Changes in water supply can significantly modulate plant stoichiometry. These results could improve our understanding of the dynamics of grasslands under climate change.

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Acknowledgements

We acknowledge Jinhua Li for the field assistance, and thank Yang Wang for the assistance of measuring the soil traits. Yongjie Liu holds a fund from the Key Research and Development Program of Forestry and Grassland Administration of Ningxia Hui Autonomous Region, China-“Study on Construction Mode and Key Technology of Grassland Ecological Civilization Demonstration Area in Ningxia Hui Autonomous Region”, and a star-up fund from Lanzhou University (508000-561119213). This research was supported by the National Natural Science Foundation of China (41571505).

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Correspondence to Zhenqing Li.

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Appendix

Appendix

Fig. 7
figure 7

Regressions between water supply and plant carbon, which is separated by species, i.e. Leymus chinensis (a), Stipa grandis (b), Artemisia frigida (c), and Potentilla acaulis (d), where the significant regressions are indicated by orange

Fig. 8
figure 8

Regressions between water supply and plant nitrogen, which is separated by species, i.e. Leymus chinensis (a), Stipa grandis (b), Artemisia frigida (c), and Potentilla acaulis (d), where the significant regressions are indicated by orange

Fig. 9
figure 9

Regressions between water supply and plant phosphorus, which is separated by species, i.e. Leymus chinensis (a), Stipa grandis (b), Artemisia frigida (c), and Potentilla acaulis (d), where the significant regressions are indicated by orange

Fig. 10
figure 10

Regressions between water supply and plant carbon of aboveground (indicated in black dot) and belowground (indicated in white dot) of plants, which is separated by species, i.e. Leymus chinensis (a), Stipa grandis (b), Artemisia frigida (c), and Potentilla acaulis (d), where the significant regressions are indicated by black for aboveground, while grey for belowground

Fig. 11
figure 11

Regressions between water supply and plant nitrogen of aboveground (indicated in black dot) and belowground (indicated in white dot) of plants, which is separated by species, i.e. Leymus chinensis (a), Stipa grandis (b), Artemisia frigida (c), and Potentilla acaulis (d), where the significant regressions are indicated by black for aboveground, while grey for belowground

Fig. 12
figure 12

Regressions between water supply and plant phosphorus of aboveground (indicated in black dot) and belowground (indicated in white dot) of plants, which is separated by species, i.e. Leymus chinensis (a), Stipa grandis (b), Artemisia frigida (c), and Potentilla acaulis (d), where the significant regressions are indicated by black for aboveground, while grey for belowground

Fig. 13
figure 13

Relationships of log-transformed carbon between aboveground and belowground of plants, which is separated by species, i.e. Leymus chinensis (a), Stipa grandis (b), Artemisia frigida (c), and Potentilla acaulis (d), where the isometric partitioning is indicated in blue. The 1:1 line (grey dotted) is added for clarity

Fig. 14
figure 14

Relationships of log-transformed nitrogen between aboveground and belowground of plants, which is separated by species, i.e. Leymus chinensis (a), Stipa grandis (b), Artemisia frigida (c), and Potentilla acaulis (d), where the isometric partitioning is indicated in blue. The 1:1 line (grey dotted) is added for clarity

Fig. 15
figure 15

Relationships of log-transformed phosphorus between aboveground and belowground of plants, which is separated by species, i.e. Leymus chinensis (a), Stipa grandis (b), Artemisia frigida (c), and Potentilla acaulis (d), where the isometric partitioning is indicated in blue. The 1:1 line (grey dotted) is added for clarity

Fig. 16
figure 16

Regressions between water supply and biomass allocation (i.e. ratio of belowground biomass and aboveground biomass) of plants, which is separated by species, i.e. Leymus chinensis (a), Stipa grandis (b), Artemisia frigida (c), and Potentilla acaulis (d), where the regressions were conducted with curve estimations, and linear, quadratic, power and exponential curves were tested. A better estimation is considered to have a smaller AIC (Akaike Information Criterion) and a more significant P-value

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Liu, Y., Li, G., Wang, M. et al. Effects of water supply on plant stoichiometry of C, N, P in Inner Mongolia grasslands. Plant Soil (2022). https://doi.org/10.1007/s11104-022-05467-5

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Keywords

  • Carbon
  • Plant stoichiometry
  • Nitrogen
  • Phosphorus
  • Water variation