Community change can buffer chronic nitrogen impacts, but multiple nutrients tip the scale

Megan Wilcots, W. Stanley Harpole, Eric W. Seabloom, Elizabeth T. Borer

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

Abstract

Anthropogenic nitrogen (N) inputs are causing large changes in ecosystems worldwide. Many previous studies have examined the impact of N on terrestrial ecosystems; however, most have added N at rates that are much higher than predicted future deposition rates. Here, we present the results from a gradient of experimental N addition (0–10 g·N·m−2) in a temperate grassland. After a decade of N addition, we found that all levels of N addition changed plant functional group composition, likely indicating altered function for plant communities exposed to 10 yr of N inputs. However, N addition only had weak impacts on species composition and this functional group shift was not driven by any particular species, suggesting high levels of functional redundancy among grasslands species. Adding other nutrients (P, K, and micronutrients) in combination with N caused substantially greater changes in the relative abundance of species and functional groups. Together, these results suggest that compositional change within functional groups may buffer grasslands from impacts of N deposition, but concurrent eutrophication with other elements will likely lead to substantial changes in plant composition and biomass.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Article numbere03355
JournalEcology
Volume102
Issue number6
DOIs
StatePublished - Jun 2021

Bibliographical note

Funding Information:
This work was generated using data from the Nutrient Network (http://www.nutnet.org) experiment, funded at the site-scale by individual researchers. Coordination and data management have been supported by funding to E. T. Borer and E. W. Seabloom from the National Science Foundation Research Coordination Network (NSF-DEB-1042132) and Long Term Ecological Research (NSF-DEB-1234162 and NSF-DEB-1831944 to Cedar Creek LTER) programs, and the Institute on the Environment (DG-0001-13). We also thank the Minnesota Supercomputer Institute for hosting project data and the Institute on the Environment for hosting Network meetings. M. E. Wilcots was funded by the NSF-GRFP and the Graduate School Fellowship from the University of Minnesota. The authors would like to thank Jeremiah Henning and Ashley Asmus for assistance with coding and analyses, as well as two anonymous reviewers for their helpful comments. E. T. Borer, W. S. Harpole, and E. W. Seabloom conceived of the study and collected data, M. E. Wilcots performed the analyses, M. E. Wilcots and E. T. Borer wrote the initial draft, and all authors contributed edits to the final draft.

Funding Information:
This work was generated using data from the Nutrient Network ( http://www.nutnet.org ) experiment, funded at the site‐scale by individual researchers. Coordination and data management have been supported by funding to E. T. Borer and E. W. Seabloom from the National Science Foundation Research Coordination Network (NSF‐DEB‐1042132) and Long Term Ecological Research (NSF‐DEB‐1234162 and NSF‐DEB‐1831944 to Cedar Creek LTER) programs, and the Institute on the Environment (DG‐0001‐13). We also thank the Minnesota Supercomputer Institute for hosting project data and the Institute on the Environment for hosting Network meetings. M. E. Wilcots was funded by the NSF‐GRFP and the Graduate School Fellowship from the University of Minnesota. The authors would like to thank Jeremiah Henning and Ashley Asmus for assistance with coding and analyses, as well as two anonymous reviewers for their helpful comments. E. T. Borer, W. S. Harpole, and E. W. Seabloom conceived of the study and collected data, M. E. Wilcots performed the analyses, M. E. Wilcots and E. T. Borer wrote the initial draft, and all authors contributed edits to the final draft.

Publisher Copyright:
© 2021 by the Ecological Society of America

Keywords

  • global change
  • nitrogen deposition
  • nutrient co-limitation
  • plant functional group
  • species turnover

PubMed: MeSH publication types

  • Journal Article
  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't
  • Research Support, U.S. Gov't, Non-P.H.S.

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