Nitrogen deposition and plant species interact to influence soil carbon stabilization

Feike A. Dijkstra, Sarah E Hobbie, Johannes M H Knops, Peter B Reich

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

98 Scopus citations


Anthropogenic nitrogen (N) deposition effects on soil organic carbon (C) decomposition remain controversial, while the role of plant species composition in mediating effects of N deposition on soil organic C decomposition and long-term soil C sequestration is virtually unknown. Here we provide evidence from a 5-year grassland field experiment in Minnesota that under elevated atmospheric CO2 concentration (560 ppm), plant species determine whether N deposition inhibits the decomposition of soil organic matter via inter-specific variation in root lignin concentration. Plant species producing lignin-rich litter increased stabilization of soil C older than 5 years, but only in combination with elevated N inputs (4 g m-2 year -1). Our results suggest that N deposition will increase soil C sequestration in those ecosystems where vegetation composition and/or elevated atmospheric CO2 cause high litter lignin inputs to soils.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)1192-1198
Number of pages7
JournalEcology letters
Issue number12
StatePublished - Dec 2004

Bibliographical note

Copyright 2008 Elsevier B.V., All rights reserved.


  • Carbon isotopes
  • Elevated CO
  • Grassland species
  • Humification
  • Lignin
  • Nitrogen isotopes
  • Root litter
  • Soil carbon sequestration
  • Soil organic matter decomposition


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