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Alternations in the element stoichiometry of the grasses drive the aboveground C:N:P ratio of an agriculturally improved pasture on karst in response to differential N and P fertilization

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Background and aims

Imbalances in nitrogen (N) and phosphorus (P) inputs in grasslands, induced by human activities, can significantly alter the C:N:P stoichiometry of plant communities and thereby affect ecosystem processes. However, in grasslands on karst, the effects of N and P inputs on aboveground C:N:P stoichiometry, species turnover, and plant nutrition remain unresolved.


We conducted a full factorial experiment with three levels of N and P fertilization levels to explore the effects of variable N and P fertilization on aboveground vegetation C:N:P stoichiometry. The C, N, and P concentrations were determined by elemental analysis and inductively coupled plasma − optical emission spectrometry.


N and P fertilization significantly increased the vegetation N and P concentrations, while the C concentration remained stable or dropped. We observed reductions in the C:N, C:P, and N:P mass ratios, with the P addition impact being more pronounced than that of N. Interestingly, legumes and grasses, the dominant functional groups of plants, exhibited divergent stoichiometric reactions to nutrient additions. Grasses were more responsive, possibly because of greater C:N:P homeostatic flexibility and efficient nutrient acquisition. The alterations in community C:N:P stoichiometry were mainly driven by intragroup trait variation, especially in the dominant grass functional group, which responded most to increased soil N and P availability.


Our findings imply that the community stoichiometric alterations were driven by the grasses, the dominant plant functional group in the studied agriculturally improved pasture on karst.

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Data availability

The datasets generated and/or analyzed for the current study are available from the corresponding author on reasonable request.


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We thank the editor and reviewers for their useful insights and constructive comments.


This work was supported by the Guizhou Provincial Science and Technology Projects (Qian Ke He [2022] Yi Ban 040 and QKHPTRC-CXTD [2022] 011), the Guizhou Education Cooperation Projects (Qianjiaoji [2022] 120), and the Guizhou University Projects (Gui Da Ji Chu [2023] 13 and Gui Da Ren Ji He [2022] 70).

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Authors and Affiliations



All authors contributed to the study conception and design. Material preparation, data collection and analysis were performed by Jing Zhou, Fugui Yang and Jin Ye. The first draft of the manuscript was written by Jin Ye and Jihui Chen, and all authors commented on previous versions of the manuscript. All authors read and approved the final manuscript.

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Correspondence to Jihui Chen.

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The authors have no relevant financial or non-financial interests to disclose.

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Responsible Editor: Stefano Cesco.

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Ye, J., Zhou, J., Yang, F. et al. Alternations in the element stoichiometry of the grasses drive the aboveground C:N:P ratio of an agriculturally improved pasture on karst in response to differential N and P fertilization. Plant Soil (2024).

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