Responses and sensitivity of N, P and mobile carbohydrates of dominant species to increased water
1 Key Laboratory of Forest Ecology and Management, Institute of Applied Ecology, Chinese Academy of Sciences, No. 72 Wenhua Road, Shenhe District, Shenyang 110016, China
2 College of Resources and Environment, University of Chinese Academy of Sciences, No. 19A Yuquan Road, Shijingshan District, Beijing 100049, China
3 Forest dynamics, Swiss Federal Research Institute WSl, Zuercherstrasse 111, CH-8903 Birmensdorf, Switzerland
*Correspondence address. Key Laboratory of Forest Ecology and Management, Institute of Applied Ecology, Chinese Academy of Sciences, No. 72 Wenhua Road, Shenhe District, Shenyang 110016, China.Tel: +86 24 83970902; Fax: +86 24 83970300; E-mail: email@example.com
Journal of Plant Ecology
VOLUME 10, NUMBER 3,PAGES 486–496
Advance Access publication 28 May 2016
available online at academic.oup.com/jpe
We aimed to improve the understanding of the carbon and nutrient physiological responses and adaptation of semi-arid grassland plants to environmental changes.
We investigated plant leaf non-structural carbohydrate (NSC = soluble sugars + starch), nitrogen (N) and phosphorus (P) levels in an Inner Mongolian semi-arid grassland community treated with water, N and P additions for 8 years. Two dominant grasses (Agropyron cristatum (L.) Gaertn., Stipa krylovii Roshev.) and two forbs (Artemisia frigida Willd., Potentilla bifurca L.) were analyzed.
Water addition decreased plant leaf N and P concentrations, whereas N and P addition increased them, indicating that the semi-arid grassland studied suffers from a shortage of N and P supply. Both N and P addition decreased the levels of soluble sugars, starch and thus also NSC in plant leaves, which may be attributed to (i) increased carbohydrate consumption associated with a higher growth rate, and (ii) a dilution effect of greater plant size under N and P addition. Water addition tended to increase the leaf NSC levels both in the grasses (+9.2%) and forbs (+0.6% only), which may be a result of increased photosynthesis of plants with increased water availability. Under conditions of ambient and increased water supply in the present study, N addition resulted in an N/P ratio of >16 in the grasses but a significantly lower N/P ratio of <11 in the forb species. This finding implies that growth of the two grass species will be limited mainly by P availability but the forbs will still be mainly limited by N supply if N deposition, alone or in combination with summer precipitation, continues to increase as predicted in Inner Mongolia.
Keywords: climate change, non-structural carbohydrates, perennial grasses, perennial forbs, steppe
Received: 9 July 2015, Revised: 18 May 2016, Accepted: 24 May 2016
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