The synergistic response of primary production in grasslands to combined nitrogen and phosphorus addition is caused by increased nutrient uptake and retention

Eduardo Vázquez, Elizabeth T. Borer, Miguel N. Bugalho, Maria C. Caldeira, Rebecca L. McCulley, Anita C. Risch, Eric W. Seabloom, George R. Wheeler, Marie Spohn

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

3 Scopus citations

Abstract

Background and aims: A synergistic response of aboveground plant biomass production to combined nitrogen (N) and phosphorus (P) addition has been observed in many ecosystems, but the underlying mechanisms and their relative importance are not well known. We aimed at evaluating several mechanisms that could potentially cause the synergistic growth response, such as changes in plant biomass allocation, increased N and P uptake by plants, and enhanced ecosystem nutrient retention. Methods: We studied five grasslands located in Europe and the USA that are subjected to an element addition experiment composed of four treatments: control (no element addition), N addition, P addition, combined NP addition. Results: Combined NP addition increased the total plant N stocks by 1.47 times compared to the N treatment, while total plant P stocks were 1.62 times higher in NP than in single P addition. Further, higher N uptake by plants in response to combined NP addition was associated with reduced N losses from the soil (evaluated based on soil δ15N) compared to N addition alone, indicating a higher ecosystem N retention. In contrast, the synergistic growth response was not associated with significant changes in plant resource allocation. Conclusions: Our results demonstrate that the commonly observed synergistic effect of NP addition on aboveground biomass production in grasslands is caused by enhanced N uptake compared to single N addition, and increased P uptake compared to single P addition, which is associated with a higher N and P retention in the ecosystem.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)371-385
Number of pages15
JournalPlant and Soil
Volume490
Issue number1-2
DOIs
StatePublished - Sep 2023

Bibliographical note

Publisher Copyright:
© 2023, The Author(s).

Keywords

  • Grasslands
  • N natural abundance
  • Nitrogen addition
  • Nitrogen losses
  • NutNet
  • Phosphorus addition
  • Synergistic growth effect

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Soil Science
  • Plant Science

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