Chin J Plan Ecolo ›› 2016, Vol. 40 ›› Issue (10): 1015-1027.DOI: 10.17521/cjpe.2016.0048

• Research Articles • Previous Articles     Next Articles

Responses of plant community biomass to nitrogen and phosphorus additions in natural and restored grasslands around Qinghai Lake Basin

Chun-Li LI1,2, Qi LI1, Liang ZHAO1, Xin-Quan ZHAO1,*   

  1. 1Key Laboratory of Adaptation and Evolution of Plateau Biota, Northwest Institute of Plateau Biology, Chinese Academy of Sciences, Xining 810008, China
    2University of Chinese Academy of Sciences, Beijing 100049, China
  • Online:2016-10-10 Published:2016-11-02
  • Contact: Xin-Quan ZHAO


Aims Plant biomass reflects the primary productivity of community vegetation, and is the main resource of carbon input in the terrestrial ecosystem. It is usually limited by nitrogen (N) and phosphorus (P) availability in the soil. Alpine grassland around Qinghai Lake Basin has experienced extensive land-use changes due to the cultivation of native grassland and vegetation recovery on cropped land. In this experiment, two grassland types were chosen, natural alpine grassland (NG) and its adjacent restored grassland (RG), to determine the responses of plant community biomass to N and P additions with different land-use. Methods NH4NO3 and Ca(H2PO4)2·H2O were added in a completely randomized block design, with medium levels of 10 g N·m-2 and 5 g P·m-2. Soil NO3--N and available P contents, and the plant community biomass were measured in the two grasslands. Two-way ANOVA was used to determine the effects of nutrient additions on all measured indicators, and regression analysis was used to analyze the correlations between plant biomass and soil NO3--N and available P contents.Important findings Results showed: (1) N and P additions both increased grass biomass in the NG, and significantly elevated the total aboveground biomass, with the promoting effect of N addition higher than that of P addition; N addition significantly increased both grass and forb biomass in the RG, and markedly promoted the total aboveground biomass, while P addition had no effects on the functional groups and total aboveground biomass (p > 0.05). (2) N and P additions both had no effects on the belowground and total biomass in the NG, whereas N addition significantly increased the total biomass by 34% in the RG, which suggested that the effect of N limitation on the vegetation primary productivity was stronger in the RG at present stage. (3) The aboveground biomass in the NG increased with soil NO3--N content (p < 0.05), and the above- and below-ground as well as the total biomass were all positively correlated with soil NO3--N content in the RG (p < 0.01). These results indicated that the plant growth in alpine grassland around Qinghai Lake Basin was prone to N limitation, and the effect of P limitation changed with land-use. Soil available N might be the key limiting factor for vegetation restoration and reconstruction in the RG. The “Grain for Green” project (the land-use policy) and atmospheric N deposition are benefiting both plant growth and C accumulation in the alpine grassland ecosystem around Qinghai Lake Basin.

Key words: alpine grassland, plant community biomass, nitrogen addition, phosphorus addition, restored grassland, Qinghai Lake Basin