Chin J Plant Ecol ›› 2020, Vol. 44 ›› Issue (6): 583-597.DOI: 10.17521/cjpe.2019.0176

• Review •     Next Articles

A review on the effects of nitrogen and phosphorus addition on tree growth and productivity in forest ecosystems

FENG Ji-Guang, ZHU Biao*()   

  1. Institute of Ecology, College of Urban and Environmental Sciences, and Key Laboratory for Earth Surface Processes of the Ministry of Education, Peking University, Beijing 100871, China
  • Received:2019-07-08 Accepted:2020-04-01 Online:2020-06-20 Published:2020-06-12
  • Contact: ZHU Biao: ORCID:0000-0001-9858-7943,
  • Supported by:
    National Key R&D Program of China(2017YFC0503903);National Natural Science Foundation of China(31988102)


Nitrogen (N) and phosphorus (P) inputs induced by anthropogenic activities and atmospheric N and P deposition have largely increased the availability of soil N and P in terrestrial ecosystems, which have considerably affected terrestrial carbon cycling processes. Tree growth and productivity in forest ecosystems play an important role in global carbon cycling, and determine the magnitude and direction of terrestrial carbon sequestration. Currently, a large number of field manipulation experiments have been conducted to investigate the effects of N and/or P addition on tree growth and forest productivity, but the results from these studies were inconsistent. Such inconsistent results might be affected by multiple factors, including biological, environmental and experimental variables. Here, we reviewed the present research status of the effects of N and P addition on tree growth and forest productivity in forest ecosystems based on three aspects, including the number of publications and experiments with field N and P addition, and the global distributions of these experiments. Then, we summarized the methods for assessing tree growth and forest productivity at ecosystem level in forest ecosystems, including relative growth rate and absolute increment. According to the related results, we reviewed the regulating factors that affect tree growth and productivity, and the potential mechanisms for such factors, including climate, tree size and stand age, plant functional traits (including type of tree-associated mycorrhizal fungi, N-fixation property of trees, and conservative and acquisitive functional traits), plant-microbe interaction, ambient nutrient (i.e., N and P) deposition rate, and experimental variables. Finally, we summarized the current studies, and pointed out five aspects that are urgently needed to provide further insights in future studies, including the physiological mechanism of how tree growth responds to N and P addition, the tradeoff and allocation among growth of various parts of tree under N and P addition, the role of plant functional traits in regulating and predicting the responses of tree growth to N and P addition, how the competition among trees regulates the responses of tree growth to N and P addition, and conducting long-term and coordinated distributed field experiments investigating the effects of N and P addition on tree growth and forest productivity at the global scale.

Key words: nutrient limitation, tree growth, ecosystem productivity, plant functional traits, plant-microbe interaction, nitrogen deposition, phosphorus deposition