Chin J Plan Ecolo ›› 2016, Vol. 40 ›› Issue (1): 36-47.doi: 10.17521/cjpe.2015.0164

• Orginal Article • Previous Articles     Next Articles

Response and correlation of above- and below-ground functional traits of Leymus chinensis to nitrogen and phosphorus additions

ZHAN Shu-Xia1,2, ZHENG Shu-Xia1, WANG Yang1,2, BAI Yong-Fei1,*   

  1. 1State Key Laboratory of Vegetation and Environmental Change, Institute of Botany, Chinese Academy of Sciences, Beijing 100093, China
    and 2University of Chinese Academy of Sciences, Beijing 100049, China
  • Online:2016-01-28 Published:2016-01-31
  • Contact: Yong-Fei BAI
  • About author:

    # Co-first authors

Abstract: AimsLeymus chinensis is a constructive and dominant species in typical steppe of northern China. The structure and functions of L. chinensis grassland ecosystem has been degenerated seriously due to long-term overgrazing in recent decades. As an effective measure to restore the degraded grasslands, the effects of nutrient addition on plant growth and ecosystem structure and functioning have been paid more attention in manipulation experimental research. The effects of nutrient addition, especially P addition on the above- and below-ground functional traits of L. chinensis have rarely been studied; particularly the underpinning mechanisms remain unclear. Our objective is to examine the responses and adaptive mechanisms of L. chinensis to different levels of N and P additions. MethodsWe conducted a culture experiment in the greenhouse, with three levels of N (50, 100 and 250 mg N·kg-1) and P (5, 10 and 25 mg P·kg-1) addition treatments. The above- and below-ground biomass, leaf traits (e.g., specific leaf area, leaf N and P contents) and root traits (e.g., specific root length, root N and P contents) of L. chinensis were determined in this study.Important findings Our results showed that: 1) the aboveground biomass and total biomass of L. chinensis were mostly affected by N addition, while the belowground biomass was mainly affected by P addition. N addition greatly enhanced the aboveground biomass of L. chinensis, while P addition reduced the belowground biomass at the moderate and high N levels. The root-shoot ratio of L. chinensis was influenced by both N and P additions, and root-shoot ratio decreased with increasing N and P levels. N and P additions promoted more biomass and N and P allocations to aboveground and leaf biomass. 2) Leymus chinensis showed different responses and adaptive mechanisms to P addition at low and high N levels. At low N level, L. chinensis exhibited high photosynthetic rate and specific root length (SRL) to improve photosynthetic capacity and root N acquisition, which promoted aboveground biomass. High root P content was favorable for belowground biomass. At high N level, P addition did not significantly affect plant growth of L. chinensis, even reduced its belowground biomass. Leymus chinensis showed high specific leaf area (SLA) and SRL to improve light interception and N acquisition in order to maintain stable aboveground biomass. 3) P addition greatly impacted below-ground than above-ground functional traits. SLA exhibited a weakly positive correlation with SRL, indicating L. chinensis exhibited relatively independence of resource acquirement and utilization between leaf and root functional traits.

Key words: Leymus chinensis, plant functional traits, above- and below-ground relationships, nitrogen and phosphorus allocation, nitrogen and phosphorus additions

Fig. 1

Effects of N and P additions on individual aboveground biomass (A), belowground biomass (B), total biomass (C), and root: shoot ratio (D) of Leymus chinensis (mean ± SE). Different letters indicate significant difference (p < 0.05) among different P treatments at the same N level. p values indicate significant levels, and ns indicates non-significant difference among P treatments. N0P0, control; N1, N2, N3 represent low, moderate and high N levels, and P1, P2, P3 represent low, moderate and high P levels."

Fig. 2

Effects of N and P additions on N (A) and P (B) allocation between leaf and root biomass of Leymus chinensis (mean ± SE). N allocation is calculated as the ratio of leaf N biomass to root N biomass, and P allocation is the ratio of leaf P biomass to root P biomass. Different letters indicate significant difference (p < 0.05) among different P treatments at the same N level. p values indicate significant levels, and ns indicates non-significant difference among P treatments. N0P0, control; N1, N2, N3 represent low, moderate and high N levels, and P1, P2, P3 represent low, moderate and high P levels."

Fig. 3

Effects of N and P additions on leaf (A) and root (B) N, P, and N:P ratios of Leymus chinensis (mean ± SE). Different letters indicate significant difference (p < 0.05) among different P treatments at the same N level. P values indicate significant levels, and ns indicates non-significant difference among P treatments. N0P0, control; N1, N2, N3 represent low, moderate and high N levels, and P1, P2, P3 represent low, moderate and high P levels."

Fig. 4

Effects of N and P additions on specific leaf area (A) and specific root length (B) of Leymus chinensis (mean ± SE). Different letters indicate significant difference (p < 0.05) among different P treatments at the same N level. p values indicate significant levels, and ns indicates non-significant difference among P treatments. N0P0, control; N1, N2, N3 represent low, moderate and high N levels, and P1, P2, P3 represent low, moderate and high P levels."

Fig. 5

Relationships between individual aboveground and belowground biomass (A), specific leaf area and specific root length (B), leaf N and root N contents (C), leaf P and root P contents (D) of Leymus chinensis."

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