Please wait a minute...
Journal of Arid Land  2012, Vol. 4 Issue (1): 3-10    DOI: 10.3724/SP.J.1227.2012.00003
Research Articles     
Impact of nitrogen addition on plant community in a semi-arid temperate steppe in China
Ling SONG1, XueMei BAO1, XueJun LIU1,2, FuSuo ZHANG1

1 Key Laboratory of Plant-Soil Interactions, Ministry of Education, College of Resources and Environmental Sciences, China Agricultural University, Beijing 100193, China;

2 Xinjiang Institute of Ecology and Geography, Chinese Academy of Sciences, Urumqi 830011, China

Download:   PDF(372KB)
Export: BibTeX | EndNote (RIS)      

Abstract   Increased nitrogen (N) deposition will often lead to a decline in species richness in grassland ecosystems but the shifts in functional groups and plant traits are still poorly understood in China. A field experiment was conducted at Duolun, Inner Mongolia, China, to investigate the effects of N addition on a temperate steppe ecosystem. Six N levels (0, 3, 6, 12, 24, and 48 g N/(m2×a)) were added as three applications per year from 2005 to 2010. Enhanced N deposition, even as little as 3 g N/(m2×a) above ambient N deposition (1.2 g N/(m2×a)), led to a decline in species richness of the whole community. Increasing N addition can significantly stimulate aboveground biomass of perennial bunchgrasses (PB) but decrease perennial forbs (PF), and induce a slight change in the biomass of shrubs and semi-shrubs (SS). The biomass of annuals (AS) and perennial rhizome grasses (PR) accounts for only a small part of the total biomass. Species richness of PF decreased significantly with increasing N addition rate but there was a little change in the other functional groups. PB, as the dominant functional group, has a relatively higher height than others. Differences in the response of each functional group to N addition have site-specific and species-specific characteristics. We initially infer that N enrichment stimulated the growth of PB, which further suppressed the growth of other functional groups.

Key wordsAQUIGEOHYCLIM      Gash River      basin      climate      geomorphology      hydrology      mitigation      water management     
Received: 05 August 2011      Published: 05 March 2012

The One Hundred Person Project of Chinese Academy of Sciences, the National Natural Science Foundation of China (40771188, 41071151), the Innovative Group Grants from NSFC (30821003) and the Sino-German project (DFG Research Training Group, GK1070).

Corresponding Authors:
Cite this article:

Ling SONG, XueMei BAO, XueJun LIU, FuSuo ZHANG. Impact of nitrogen addition on plant community in a semi-arid temperate steppe in China. Journal of Arid Land, 2012, 4(1): 3-10.

URL:     OR

altering the nitrogen status of northeastern forests? Bioscience, 53(4): 375–389.
Bai Y, Wu J, Clark C M, et al. 2010. Tradeoffs and thresholds in the effects of nitrogen addition on biodiversity and ecosystem functioning: evidence from Inner Mongolia grasslands. Global Change Biology, 16(1): 358–372.
Bobbink R, Ashmore M, Braun S, et al. 2003. Empirical nitrogen critical loads for natural and semi-natural ecosystems: 2002 update. In: Achermann B, Bobbink R. Empirical Critical Loads for Nitrogen. Berne: Swiss Agency for  Environment, Forest and Landscape SAEFL, 43–170.
Bobbink R. 2004. Plant species richness and the exceedance of empirical nitrogen critical loads: an inventory. Bilthoven, Utrecht University/RIVM. Report Landscape Ecology.
Bobbink R, Hicks K, Galloway J, et al. 2010. Global assessment of nitrogen deposition effects on terrestrial plant diversity: a synthesis. Ecological Applications, 20(1): 30–59.
Britton A J, Fisher J M. 2007. Interactive effects of nitrogen deposition, fire and grazing on diversity and composition of low-alpine prostrate Calluna vulgaris heathland. Journal of Applied Ecology, 44(1): 125–135.
Chen Q, Hooper D U, Lin S. 2011. Shifts in species composition constrain restoration of overgrazed grassland using nitrogen fertilization in Inner Mongolian steppe, China. PLoS ONE, 6(3): e16909. doi:10.1371/journal.pone.0016909.
Clark C M, Tilman D. 2008. Loss of plant species after chronic low-level nitrogen deposition to prairie grasslands. Nature, 451: 712–715.
Dupre C, Stevens C J, Ranke T, et al. 2010. Changes in species richness and composition in European acidic grasslands over the past 70 years: the contribution of cumulative atmospheric nitrogen deposition. Global Change Biology, 16(1): 344–357.
Emmett B A. 2007. Nitrogen saturation of terrestrial ecosystems: some recent findings and their implications for our conceptual framework. Water, Air and Soil Pollution: Focus, 7(1–3): 99–109.
Hautier Y, Niklaus P A, Hector A. 2009. Competition for light causes plant biodiversity loss after eutrophication. Science, 324(5927): 636–638.
He C E, Liu X J, Christie P, et al. 2010. Estimating total nitrogen deposition in agroecosys-tems in northern China during the wheat cropping season, 2(1): 2–8.
Jones D L, Kielland K. 2002. Soil amino acid turnover dominates the nitrogen flux in permafrost-dominated taiga forest soils. Soil Biology and Biochemistry, 34(2): 209–219.
Liu X J, Duan L, Mo J M, et al. 2011. Nitrogen deposition and its ecologyical impact in China: an overview. Environmental Pollution, 159(10): 2251–2264.
Lu M, Yang Y H, Luo Y Q, et al. 2011. Responses of ecosystem nitrogen cycle to nitrogen addition: a meta-analysis. New Phytologist, 189(4): 1040–1050.
Matson P, Lohse K A, Hall S J. 2002. The globalization of nitrogen deposition: consequences for terrestrial ecosystems. Ambio, 31(2): 113–119.
NADP (National Atmospheric Deposition Program), 2000. National Atmospheric Deposition Program Annual Data Summary: Precipitation Chemistry in the United States. NADP Program Office, Illinois State Water Survey, University of Illinois, Champaign.
Nilsson M C, Wardle D A, Zackrisson O, et al. 2002. Effects of alleviation of ecological stresses on an alpine tundra community over an eight-year period. Oikos, 97(1): 3–17.
Niu S L, Wu M Y, Han Y, et al. 2010. Nitrogen effects on net ecosystem carbon exchange in a temperate steppe. Global Change Biology, 16(1): 144–155.
Roem W J, Berendse F. 2000. Soil acidity and nutrient supply ratio as possible factors determining changes in plant species diversity in grassland and heathland communities. Biological Conservation, 92(2): 151–161.
Shen J L, Tang A H, Liu X J, et al. 2009. High concentrations and dry deposition of reactive nitrogen species at two sites in the North China Plain. Environmental Pollution, 157(11): 3106–3113.
Song L, Bao X M, Liu X J, et al. 2011. Nitrogen enrichment enhances the dominance of grasses over forbs in a temperate steppe ecosystem. Biogeosciences, 8: 2341–2350.
Soudzilovskaia N A, Onipchenko V G, Cornelissen J H C, et al. 2005. Biomass production, N:P ratio and nutrient limitation in a Caucasian alpine tundra plant community. Journal of Vegetation Science, 16(4): 399–406.
Stevens C J, Dise N B, Mountford J O, et al. 2004. Impact of nitrogen deposition on the species richness of grasslands. Science, 303(5665): 1876–1879.
Stevens C J, Dise N B, Gowing D J G, et al. 2006. Loss of forb diversity in relation to nitrogen deposition in the UK: regional trends and potential controls. Global Change Biology, 12(10): 1823–1833.
Xia J Y, Wan S Q. 2008. Global response patterns of terrestrial plant species to nitrogen addition. New Phytologist, 179(2): 428–439.
Zhang Y, Liu X J, Fangmeier A, et al. 2008. Nitrogen inputs and isotopes in precipitation in the North China Plain. Atmospheric Environment, 42(7): 1436–1448.

[1] LIN Yanmin, HU Zhirui, LI Wenhui, CHEN Haonan, WANG Fang, NAN Xiongxiong, YANG Xuelong, ZHANG Wenjun. Response of ecosystem carbon storage to land use change from 1985 to 2050 in the Ningxia Section of Yellow River Basin, China[J]. Journal of Arid Land, 2024, 16(1): 110-130.
[2] ZHAO Xuqin, LUO Min, MENG Fanhao, SA Chula, BAO Shanhu, BAO Yuhai. Spatiotemporal changes of gross primary productivity and its response to drought in the Mongolian Plateau under climate change[J]. Journal of Arid Land, 2024, 16(1): 46-70.
[3] WANG Yinping, JIANG Rengui, YANG Mingxiang, XIE Jiancang, ZHAO Yong, LI Fawen, LU Xixi. Spatiotemporal characteristics and driving mechanisms of land use/land cover (LULC) changes in the Jinghe River Basin, China[J]. Journal of Arid Land, 2024, 16(1): 91-109.
[4] Mitiku A WORKU, Gudina L FEYISA, Kassahun T BEKETIE, Emmanuel GARBOLINO. Projecting future precipitation change across the semi-arid Borana lowland, southern Ethiopia[J]. Journal of Arid Land, 2023, 15(9): 1023-1036.
[5] QIN Guoqiang, WU Bin, DONG Xinguang, DU Mingliang, WANG Bo. Evolution of groundwater recharge-discharge balance in the Turpan Basin of China during 1959-2021[J]. Journal of Arid Land, 2023, 15(9): 1037-1051.
[6] MA Jinpeng, PANG Danbo, HE Wenqiang, ZHANG Yaqi, WU Mengyao, LI Xuebin, CHEN Lin. Response of soil respiration to short-term changes in precipitation and nitrogen addition in a desert steppe[J]. Journal of Arid Land, 2023, 15(9): 1084-1106.
[7] ZHANG Hui, Giri R KATTEL, WANG Guojie, CHUAI Xiaowei, ZHANG Yuyang, MIAO Lijuan. Enhanced soil moisture improves vegetation growth in an arid grassland of Inner Mongolia Autonomous Region, China[J]. Journal of Arid Land, 2023, 15(7): 871-885.
[8] ZHANG Zhen, XU Yangyang, LIU Shiyin, DING Jing, ZHAO Jinbiao. Seasonal variations in glacier velocity in the High Mountain Asia region during 2015-2020[J]. Journal of Arid Land, 2023, 15(6): 637-648.
[9] GAO Xiang, WEN Ruiyang, Kevin LO, LI Jie, YAN An. Heterogeneity and non-linearity of ecosystem responses to climate change in the Qilian Mountains National Park, China[J]. Journal of Arid Land, 2023, 15(5): 508-522.
[10] BAI Miao, LI Zhanling, HUO Pengying, WANG Jiawen, LI Zhanjie. Propagation characteristics from meteorological drought to agricultural drought over the Heihe River Basin, Northwest China[J]. Journal of Arid Land, 2023, 15(5): 523-544.
[11] Reza DEIHIMFARD, Sajjad RAHIMI-MOGHADDAM, Farshid JAVANSHIR, Alireza PAZOKI. Quantifying major sources of uncertainty in projecting the impact of climate change on wheat grain yield in dryland environments[J]. Journal of Arid Land, 2023, 15(5): 545-561.
[12] Sakine KOOHI, Hadi RAMEZANI ETEDALI. Future meteorological drought conditions in southwestern Iran based on the NEX-GDDP climate dataset[J]. Journal of Arid Land, 2023, 15(4): 377-392.
[13] Mehri SHAMS GHAHFAROKHI, Sogol MORADIAN. Investigating the causes of Lake Urmia shrinkage: climate change or anthropogenic factors?[J]. Journal of Arid Land, 2023, 15(4): 424-438.
[14] ZHANG Yixin, LI Peng, XU Guoce, MIN Zhiqiang, LI Qingshun, LI Zhanbin, WANG Bin, CHEN Yiting. Temporal and spatial variation characteristics of extreme precipitation on the Loess Plateau of China facing the precipitation process[J]. Journal of Arid Land, 2023, 15(4): 439-459.
[15] WU Jingyan, LUO Jungang, ZHANG Han, YU Mengjie. Driving forces behind the spatiotemporal heterogeneity of land-use and land-cover change: A case study of the Weihe River Basin, China[J]. Journal of Arid Land, 2023, 15(3): 253-273.