Chin J Plan Ecolo ›› 2018, Vol. 42 ›› Issue (4): 430-441.doi: 10.17521/cjpe.2017.0135

• Research Articles • Previous Articles     Next Articles

Effects of nitrogen addition on the plant diversity and biomass of degraded grasslands of Nei Mongol, China

Qian YANG1,2,Wei WANG2*(),Hui ZENG1,2*()   

  1. 1 Shenzhen Graduate School, Peking University, Shenzhen, Guangdong 518055, China
    2 College of Urban and Environment, Peking University, Beijing 100871, China
  • Online:2018-03-21 Published:2018-04-20

Abstract:

Aims Anthropogenic disturbances and climate change have resulted in large scale degradation of grasslands across the landscapes in Nei Mongol. Fertilization, especially with nitrogen (N) addition, has been proposed and applied as an important management practice to promote primary production for these degraded grasslands. In this study, we examined the changes in plant diversity and biomass at three levels of degradations with N addition.

Methods Nitrogen addition experiment was installed in 2011. Six levels of N addition (0, 10, 20, 30, 40, and 50 g·m -2·a -1) were conducted at grasslands with three levels of degradations. Nitrogen was added at the beginning of each month from May to August each year. We investigated the changes in plant species richness and aboveground biomass by species in August, 2016. The total biomass of the community, as well as the biomass of each plant functional group (grasses and forbs) was calculated based on species composition.

Important findings We found that: (1) N addition decreased species richness and diversity at communities under moderate and severe degradations, but insignificant under extreme degradation. (2) N addition increased the aboveground biomass at communities under three levels of degradations. (3) N addition increased the aboveground biomass of the grasses and its proportion to the total biomass, but not on the total biomass of the forbs although it also decreased the proportion of aboveground biomass. These results indicate that the impacts of N addition on ecosystem function depended on plant function type. In addition, the fertilization effects should are examined at community level and by the degree of the degradation.

Key words: nitrogen addition, grassland degradation, species richness, species diversity, aboveground biomass, plant functional group

Fig. 1

Study area and the spatial distribution of study sites. EDG, extremely degraded grassland; MDG, moderately degraded grassland; SDG, severely degraded grassland."

Table 1

Plant and soil characteristics at the experimental sites"

名称 Term 极度退化草地 EDG 重度退化草地 SDG 中度退化草地 MDG
物种组成
Species composition
羊草、黄囊薹草、马唐、狗尾草、沙蓬藜等
Leymus chinensis; Carex korshinskyi; Digitaria sanguinalis; Setaria viridis; Agriophyllum squarrosum; Chenopodium acuminatum et al.
拂子茅、贝加尔针茅、硬质早熟禾、黄囊薹草、腺毛委陵菜、星毛委陵菜、冷蒿、紫羊茅、冰草、狼毒、糙隐子草、阿尔泰狗娃花等
Calamagrostis epigeios; Stipa baicalensis; Poa sphondylodes; Carex korshinskyi; Potentilla longifolia; Potentilla acaulis; Artemisia frigida; Festuca rubra; Agropyron cristatum; Stellera chamaejasme; Cleistogenes squarrosa; Heteropappus altaicus et al.
拂子茅、贝加尔针茅、羊草、硬质早熟禾、腺毛委陵菜、黄囊薹草、冷蒿、紫羊茅、冰草、糙隐子草、阴山胡枝子、阿尔泰狗娃花等
Calamagrostis epigeios; Stipa baicalensis; Leymus chinensis; Poa sphondylodes; Potentilla longifolia; Carex korshinskyi; Artemisia frigida; Festuca rubra; Agropyron cristatum; Cleistogenes squarrosa; Lespedeza inschanica; Heteropappus altaicus et al.
顶极种相对盖度
Relative coverage of
climax species (%)
34.48 39.53 54.05
退化指示种相对盖度
Relative coverage of
degradation indicators (%)
34.48 32.56 29.73
一年生植物相对盖度
Relative coverage of annuals (%)
31.04 27.91 16.22
土壤全碳 Soil total carbon (%) 0.83 1.67 2.06
土壤全氮 Soil total nitrogen (%) 0.06 0.14 0.17
砂粒含量 Sand content (%) 66.10 57.30 58.40
草地退化指数
Grassland degradation index
0.379 0.543 0.642

Table 2

Results of two-way ANOVA on the effects of nitrogen (N) on plant species richness, species diversity and aboveground biomass under different levels of degradations"

响应 Response 名称 Term df F p
物种丰富度 Species richness DT 2 40.64 <0.001
N 5 8.50 <0.001
DT × N 10 2.27 0.035
Shannon-Wiener指数
Shannon-Wiener index
DT 2 12.84 <0.001
N 5 5.06 0.001
DT × N 10 1.50 0.179
地上生物量 Aboveground biomass DT 2 42.08 <0.001
N 5 9.53 <0.001
DT×N 10 1.30 0.264

Fig. 2

Effects of nitrogen addition on plant species richness (A) and species diversity (B) at different degraded grasslands (mean ± SE). The letters indicted significant differences in Duncan’s multiple (p < 0.05) range tests based on one-way ANOVA; NS indicates non-significant (p > 0.05). For each site, regression confidents were estimated based on linear models with nitrogen treatment as the independent variables (species richness = Intercept + slope × nitrogen addition amount). NS, p > 0.05; *, p < 0.05; **, p < 0.01; ***, p < 0.001. EDG, extremely degraded grassland; MDG, moderately degraded grassland; SDG, severely degraded grassland."

Fig. 3

Effects of nitrogen addition on aboveground biomass (A) and aboveground biomass response ratio (B) at different degraded communities (mean ± SE). The letters indicate significantly different in Duncan’s multiple (p < 0.05) range tests from one-way ANOVA. For each site, regression coefficients were estimated by using a linear model with N treatment as the independent variable (aboveground biomass = intercept + slope × nitrogen addition amount). *, p < 0.05; **, p < 0.01; ***, p < 0.001. EDG, extremely degraded grassland; MDG, moderately degraded grassland; SDG, severely degraded grassland."

Table 3

Results of two-way ANOVA on the effects of nitrogen (N)-treatment and degradation type on aboveground biomass of plant functional groups and their proportions of the community aboveground biomass"

响应 Response 名称 Term df F p
禾草生物量 Grass biomass DT 2 11.70 <0.001
N 5 11.76 <0.001
DT × N 10 0.72 0.696
禾草百分比 Grass percentage (%) DT 2 12.70 <0.001
N 5 7.34 <0.001
DT × N 10 0.81 0.616
杂类草生物量 Forb biomass DT 2 28.28 <0.001
N 5 1.13 0.358
DT × N 10 1.35 0.238
杂类草百分比 Forb percentage (%) DT 2 12.35 <0.001
N 5 7.01 <0.001
DT × N 10 0.80 0.738

Fig. 4

Change in aboveground biomass (mean ± SE) with nitrogen addition on aboveground biomass by plant function groups under three levels of degraded grassland. The different letters indicate significant differences in Duncan’s multiple (p < 0.05) range tests from one-way ANOVA, NS indicates non-significant (p > 0.05). EDG, extremely degraded grassland; MDG, moderately degraded grassland; SDG; severely degraded grassland."

Fig. 5

Proportion of aboveground biomass in the total biomass varied with nitrogen addition, plant functional groups (grass vs forb), and degradation level (mean ± SE). The different letters indicate the significant difference from the Duncan’s multiple (p < 0.05) range tests (one-way ANOVA). EDG, extremely degraded grassland; MDG, moderately degraded grassland; SDG, severely degraded grassland."

Fig. 6

Change in Gini coefficiesed on the asymmetry of plant functional groups height with nitrogen addition rate at grasslands under three different levels of degradations (mean ± SE). EDG, extremely degraded grassland; MDG, moderately degraded grassland; SDG, severely degraded grassland."

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