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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
Plant and Soil  (IF4.192),  Pub Date : 2022-04-13, DOI: 10.1007/s11104-022-05435-z
Changchun Song, Yuqiu Zhang, Zhengru Ren, Haining Lu, Xu Chen, Ruoxuan Liu, Jungang Chen, Yunhai Zhang


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.


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.


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.


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.