Journal cover Journal topic
Biogeosciences An interactive open-access journal of the European Geosciences Union
Biogeosciences, 14, 3947-3956, 2017
© Author(s) 2017. This work is distributed under
the Creative Commons Attribution 3.0 License.
Research article
13 Sep 2017
Initial shifts in nitrogen impact on ecosystem carbon fluxes in an alpine meadow: patterns and causes
Bing Song1,2, Jian Sun1, Qingping Zhou3, Ning Zong1, Linghao Li2, and Shuli Niu1,4 1Key Laboratory of Ecosystem Network Observation and Modeling, Institute of Geographic Sciences and Natural Resources Research, Chinese Academy of Sciences, Datun Road, Beijing 100101, China
2State Key Laboratory of Vegetation and Environmental Change, Institute of Botany, Chinese Academy of Sciences, Xiangshan, Beijing 100093, China
3Institute of Qinghai–Tibetan Plateau, Southwest Minzu University, Chengdu 610041, China
4Department of Resources and Environment, University of Chinese Academy of Sciences, Beijing 100049, China
Abstract. Increases in nitrogen (N) deposition can greatly stimulate ecosystem net carbon (C) sequestration through positive N-induced effects on plant productivity. However, how net ecosystem CO2 exchange (NEE) and its components respond to different N addition rates remains unclear. Using an N addition gradient experiment (six levels: 0, 2, 4, 8, 16, 32 gN m−2 yr−1) in an alpine meadow on the Qinghai–Tibetan Plateau, we explored the responses of different ecosystem C fluxes to an N addition gradient and revealed mechanisms underlying the dynamic responses. Results showed that NEE, ecosystem respiration (ER), and gross ecosystem production (GEP) all increased linearly with N addition rates in the first year of treatment but shifted to N saturation responses in the second year with the highest NEE (−7.77 ± 0.48 µmol m−2 s−1) occurring under an N addition rate of 8 gN m−2 yr−1. The saturation responses of NEE and GEP were caused by N-induced accumulation of standing litter, which limited light availability for plant growth under high N addition. The saturation response of ER was mainly due to an N-induced saturation response of aboveground plant respiration and decreasing soil microbial respiration along the N addition gradient, while decreases in soil microbial respiration under high N addition were caused by N-induced reductions in soil pH. We also found that various components of ER, including aboveground plant respiration, soil respiration, root respiration, and microbial respiration, responded differentially to the N addition gradient. These results reveal temporal dynamics of N impacts and the rapid shift in ecosystem C fluxes from N limitation to N saturation. Our findings bring evidence of short-term initial shifts in responses of ecosystem C fluxes to increases in N deposition, which should be considered when predicting long-term changes in ecosystem net C sequestration.

Citation: Song, B., Sun, J., Zhou, Q., Zong, N., Li, L., and Niu, S.: Initial shifts in nitrogen impact on ecosystem carbon fluxes in an alpine meadow: patterns and causes, Biogeosciences, 14, 3947-3956,, 2017.
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