Grassland productivity limited by multiple nutrients

Fay, Philip A. and Prober, Suzanne M. and Harpole, W. Stanley and Knops, Johannes M. H. and Bakker, Jonathan D. and Borer, Elizabeth T. and Lind, Eric M. and Macdougall, Andrew S. and Seabloom, Eric W. and Wragg, Peter D. and Adler, Peter B. and Blumenthal, Dana M. and Buckley, Yvonne M. and Chu, Chengjin and Cleland, Elsa E. and Collins, Scott L. and Davies, Kendi F. and Du, Guozhen and Feng, Xiaohui and Firn, Jennifer and Gruner, Daniel S. and Hagenah, Nicole and Hautier, Yann and Heckman, Robert W. and Jin, Virginia L. and Kirkman, Kevin P. and Klein, Julia and Ladwig, Laura M. and Li, Qi and Mcculley, Rebecca L. and Melbourne, Brett A. and Mitchell, Charles E. and Moore, Joslin L. and Morgan, John W. and Risch, Anita C. and Schütz, Martin and Stevens, Carly J. and Wedin, David A. and Yang, Louie H. (2015) Grassland productivity limited by multiple nutrients. Nature Plants, 1 (7). ISSN 2055-026X

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Terrestrial ecosystem productivity is widely accepted to be nutrient limited1. Although nitrogen (N) is deemed a key determinant of aboveground net primary production (ANPP)2,3, the prevalence of co-limitation by N and phosphorus (P) is increasingly recognized4,​5,​6,​7,​8. However, the extent to which terrestrial productivity is co-limited by nutrients other than N and P has remained unclear. Here, we report results from a standardized factorial nutrient addition experiment, in which we added N, P and potassium (K) combined with a selection of micronutrients (K+μ), alone or in concert, to 42 grassland sites spanning five continents, and monitored ANPP. Nutrient availability limited productivity at 31 of the 42 grassland sites. And pairwise combinations of N, P, and K+μ co-limited ANPP at 29 of the sites. Nitrogen limitation peaked in cool, high latitude sites. Our findings highlight the importance of less studied nutrients, such as K and micronutrients, for grassland productivity, and point to significant variations in the type and degree of nutrient limitation. We suggest that multiple-nutrient constraints must be considered when assessing the ecosystem-scale consequences of nutrient enrichment.

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Journal Article
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Nature Plants
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04 Dec 2015 14:16
Last Modified:
15 Sep 2023 00:22