Consequences of elevated temperatures on legume biomass and nitrogen cycling in a field warming and biodiversity experiment in a North American prairie

Heather R. Whittington, David Tilman, Jennifer S. Powers

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10 Scopus citations

Abstract

Increases in global temperature are likely to have effects on the nitrogen cycle, including those mediated through effects on legumes, which have a role in the N cycle by fixing N2. These effects may alter plant functioning and community structure, especially in N-limited ecosystems. We manipulated temperature and plant diversity in the field to investigate the effects of elevated temperature on aboveground biomass, shoot N concentration ([N]), and reliance on N2 fixation of four prairie legumes (Amorpha canescens Pursh., Dalea purpurea Vent., Lespedeza capitata Michx. and Lupinus perennis L.) planted in plots of varying species numbers. We monitored the effect of warming on soil microclimate and net N mineralisation rates, as these variables may mediate the effect of warming on legumes. Warming decreased soil moisture and increased soil temperature, but had no effect on net N mineralisation. Warming increased the aboveground biomass of D. purpurea and L. perennis, but decreased shoot [N] for all species in one year. Though the data were not optimal for quantifying N2 fixation using stable isotopes, they suggest that warming did not affect the reliance on N2 fixation. Species diversity did not have strong effects on the response to warming. These results suggest that legume-mediated effects of temperature on N cycling will arise from changes in biomass and tissue chemistry, not N2 fixation. We observed strong interannual variation between a wet and dry year for N mineralisation, shoot [N] and reliance on N2 fixation, suggesting that these may be more responsive to precipitation changes than elevated temperature.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)1147-1158
Number of pages12
JournalFunctional Plant Biology
Volume40
Issue number11
DOIs
StatePublished - Oct 25 2013

Keywords

  • Amorpha canescens
  • Dalea purpurea
  • Lespedeza capitata
  • Lupinus perennis
  • Petalostemum purpureum
  • grassland

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