Journal Article

Nitrogen and water addition reduce leaf longevity of steppe species

Haiyan Ren, Zhuwen Xu, Jianhui Huang, Christopher Clark, Shiping Chen and Xingguo Han

in Annals of Botany

Published on behalf of The Annals of Botany Company

Volume 107, issue 1, pages 145-155
Published in print January 2011 | ISSN: 0305-7364
Published online November 2010 | e-ISSN: 1095-8290 | DOI: http://dx.doi.org/10.1093/aob/mcq219
Nitrogen and water addition reduce leaf longevity of steppe species

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  • Ecology and Conservation
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Background and aims

Changes in supplies of resources will modify plant functional traits. However, few experimental studies have addressed the effects of nitrogen and water variations, either singly or in combination, on functional traits.

Methods

A 2-year field experiment was conducted to test the effects of nitrogen and water addition on leaf longevity and other functional traits of the two dominant (Agropyron cristatum and Stipa krylovii) and three most common species (Cleistogenes squarrosa, Melilotoides ruthenica and Potentilla tanacetifolia) in a temperate steppe in northern China.

Key Results

Additional nitrogen and water increased leaf nitrogen content and net photosynthetic rate, and changed other measured functional traits. Leaf longevity decreased significantly with both nitrogen addition (–6 days in 2007 and –5·4 days in 2008; both P < 0·001) and watering (–13 days in 2007 and –9·9 days in 2008; both P < 0·001), and significant differences in leaf longevity were also found among species. Nitrogen and water interacted to affect leaf longevity and other functional traits. Soil water content explained approx. 70 % of the shifts in leaf longevity. Biomass at both species and community level increased under water and nitrogen addition because of the increase in leaf biomass production per individual plant.

Conclusions

The results suggest that additional nitrogen and water supplies reduce plant leaf longevity. Soil water availability might play a fundamental role in determining leaf longevity and other leaf functional traits, and its effects can be modified by soil nitrogen availability in semi-arid areas. The different responses of species to resource alterations may cause different global change ramifications under future climate change scenarios.

Keywords: Agropyron cristatum; Cleistogenes squarrosa; Melilotoides ruthenica; Potentilla tanacetifolia; Stipa krylovii; grassland; Inner Mongolia; leaf functional traits; leaf longevity; nitrogen; steppe; water

Journal Article.  7015 words.  Illustrated.

Subjects: Ecology and Conservation ; Evolutionary Biology ; Plant Sciences and Forestry

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