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Journal of Arid Land  2021, Vol. 13 Issue (10): 1041-1053    DOI: 10.1007/s40333-021-0080-7
Research article     
Effect of nitrogen and phosphorus addition on leaf nutrient concentrations and nutrient resorption efficiency of two dominant alpine grass species
LIU Yalan1,2,3, LI Lei1,2,*(), LI Xiangyi1,2, YUE Zewei1,2,3, LIU Bo4
1State Key Laboratory of Desert and Oasis Ecology, Xinjiang Institute of Ecology and Geography, Chinese Academy of Sciences, Urumqi 830011, China
2Cele National Station of Observation and Research for Desert Grassland Ecosystems, Cele 848300, China
3University of Chinese Academy of Sciences, Beijing 100049, China
4Shandong Provincial Key Laboratory of Soil Conservation and Environmental Protection, College of Resources and Environment, Linyi University, Linyi 276000, China
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Nitrogen (N) and phosphorus (P) are two essential nutrients that determine plant growth and many nutrient cycling processes. Increasing N and P deposition is an important driver of ecosystem changes. However, in contrast to numerous studies about the impacts of nutrient addition on forests and temperate grasslands, how plant foliar stoichiometry and nutrient resorption respond to N and P addition in alpine grasslands is poorly understood. Therefore, we conducted an N and P addition experiment (involving control, N addition, P addition, and N+P addition) in an alpine grassland on Kunlun Mountains (Xinjiang Uygur Autonomous Region, China) in 2016 and 2017 to investigate the changes in leaf nutrient concentrations (i.e., leaf N, Leaf P, and leaf N:P ratio) and nutrient resorption efficiency of Seriphidium rhodanthum and Stipa capillata, which are dominant species in this grassland. Results showed that N addition has significant effects on soil inorganic N (NO3--N and NH4+-N) and leaf N of both species in the study periods. Compared with green leaves, leaf nutrient concentrations and nutrient resorption efficiency in senesced leaves of S. rhodanthum was more sensitive to N addition, whereas N addition influenced leaf N and leaf N:P ratio in green and senesced leaves of S. capillata. N addition did not influence N resorption efficiency of the two species. P addition and N+P addition significantly improved leaf P and had a negative effect on P resorption efficiency of the two species in the study period. These influences on plants can be explained by increasing P availability. The present results illustrated that the two species are more sensitive to P addition than N addition, which implies that P is the major limiting factor in the studied alpine grassland ecosystem. In addition, an interactive effect of N+P addition was only discernable with respect to soil availability, but did not affect plants. Therefore, exploring how nutrient characteristics and resorption response to N and P addition in the alpine grassland is important to understand nutrient use strategy of plants in terrestrial ecosystems.

Key wordsleaf nutrient concentration      nutrient resorption efficiency      leaf N:P ratio      N addition      P addition      Seriphidium rhodanthum      Stipa capillata     
Received: 13 January 2021      Published: 10 October 2021
Corresponding Authors: *LI Lei (E-mail:
Cite this article:

LIU Yalan, LI Lei, LI Xiangyi, YUE Zewei, LIU Bo. Effect of nitrogen and phosphorus addition on leaf nutrient concentrations and nutrient resorption efficiency of two dominant alpine grass species. Journal of Arid Land, 2021, 13(10): 1041-1053.

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Fig. 1 Monthly air temperature (a) and monthly precipitation (b) in 2016 and 2017
Parameter Year N addition P addition N+P addition
Soil inorganic N <0.001*** <0.001*** 0.211 0.240
Soil available P <0.001*** 0.842 <0.001*** 0.008**
Table 1  P-values from linear mixed models for soil inorganic nitrogen (N) and soil available phosphorus (P)
Fig. 2 Responses of NH4+-N (a), NO3--N (b), soil inorganic N (c), and soil available P (d) to the four treatments (control, N addition, P addition, and N+P addition). Different uppercase letters indicate the significant differences among the four treatments in 2016, and different lowercase letters indicate the significant differences among the four treatments in 2017 (P<0.05). Bars mean standard errors.
Parameter S. rhodanthum
Green leaves Senesced leaves
Leaf N Leaf P Leaf N:P ratio Leaf N Leaf P Leaf N:P ratio
Year <0.001*** 0.051 <0.001*** 0.112 0.022* 0.480
N addition 0.005** 0.670 0.540 0.023* 0.660 0.007**
P addition 0.221 0.001** 0.573 0.651 0.001** 0.001**
N+P addition 0.243 0.771 0.772 0.354 0.842 0.078
Table 2 P-values from linear mixed models for leaf nutrient characteristics of Seriphidium rhodanthum
Parameter S. capillata
Green leaves Senesced leaves
Leaf N Leaf P Leaf N:P ratio Leaf N Leaf P Leaf N:P ratio
Year <0.001*** <0.001*** 0.711 <0.001*** <0.001*** <0.001***
N addition 0.002*** 0.922 <0.001*** <0.001*** 0.552 <0.001***
P addition 0.442 <0.001*** <0.001*** 0.362 <0.001*** <0.001***
N+P addition 0.431 0.792 0.063 0.523 0.451 0.008**
Table 3 P-values from linear mixed models for leaf nutrient characteristics of Stipa capillata
Fig. 4 N:P ratio in green and senesced leaves of S. rhodanthum and S. capillata in response to the four treatments in 2016 (a, c) and 2017 (b, d). Different uppercase letters indicate the significant differences among the four treatments in S. rhodanthum, and different lowercase letters indicate the significant differences among the four treatments in S. capillata (P<0.05). Bars mean standard errors.
Fig. 3 N and P concentrations in green and senesced leaves of Seriphidium rhodanthum and Stipa capillata in response to the four treatments in 2016 (a, c, e, g) and 2017 (b, d, f, h). Different uppercase letters indicate the significant differences among the four treatments in S. rhodanthum, and different lowercase letters indicate the significant differences among the four treatments in S. capillata (P<0.05). Bars mean standard errors.
Parameter S. rhodanthum S. capillata
Year 0.006** 0.003** <0.001*** 0.962 <0.001*** <0.001***
N addition 0.683 0.531 0.811 0.073 0.291 0.054*
P addition 0.122 0.021* 0.019* 0.522 <0.001*** 0.011*
N+P addition 0.791 0.906 0.713 0.790 0.359 0.443
Table 4 P-values from linear mixed models for nutrient resorption efficiency of S. rhodanthum and S. capillata
Fig. 5 NRE, PRE, and NRE:PRE ratio of S. rhodanthum and S. capillata in response to the four treatments in 2016 (a, c, e) and 2017 (b, d, f). NRE, nutrient resorption efficiency; PRE, phosphorus resorption efficiency. Different uppercase letters indicate the significant differences among the four treatments in S. rhodanthum, and different lowercase letters indicate the significant differences among the four treatments in S. capillata (P<0.05). Bars mean standard errors.
Species Year Leaf nutrient concentration Soil nutrient concentration
Soil inorganic N Soil available P
S. rhodanthum 2016 Green leaf N 0.30 0.27
Green leaf P -0.39 0.76**
Green leaf N:P ratio -0.09 -0.12
Senesced leaf N -0.09 -0.45
Senesced leaf P -0.24 -0.84**
Senesced leaf N:P ratio 0.56* -0.74*
2017 Green leaf N 0.23 -0.08
Green leaf P -0.17 0.53**
Green leaf N:P ratio 0.26 -0.64*
Senesced leaf N -0.39 -0.46
Senesced leaf P -0.49 -0.82**
Senesced leaf N:P ratio 0.62* -0.63*
S. capillata 2016 Green leaf N 0.65** -0.85
Green leaf P -0.24 0.68**
Green leaf N:P ratio 0.54* -0.61*
Senesced leaf N 0.69** -0.12
Senesced leaf P -0.45 0.68**
Senesced leaf N:P ratio 0.43 -0.67**
2017 Green leaf N 0.50* 0.26
Green leaf P -0.45 0.71**
Green leaf N:P ratio 0.58 -0.74**
Senesced leaf N 0.52* -0.33
Senesced leaf P -0.14 0.73**
Senesced leaf N:P ratio 0.27 -0.70**
Table 5 Correlation coefficients between leaf nutrient concentrations and soil nutrient concentrations for S. rhodanthum and S. capillata in 2016 and 2017
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