Multi-nutrient vs. nitrogen-only effects on carbon sequestration in grassland soils

D. A. Fornara, Lindsay Banin, Michael J Crawley

    Research output: Contribution to journalArticle

    42 Citations (Scopus)

    Abstract

    Human activities have greatly increased the availability of biologically active forms of nutrients (e.g. nitrogen (N), phosphorous (P), potassium (K), magnesium (Mg)) in many soil ecosystems worldwide. Multi-nutrient fertilization strongly increases plant productivity but may also alter the storage of carbon (C) in soil, which represents the largest terrestrial pool of organic C. Despite this issue is important from a global change perspective, key questions remain on how the single addition of N or the combination of N with other nutrients might affect C sequestration in human-managed soils. Here, we use a 19-year old nutrient addition experiment on a permanent grassland to test for nutrient-induced effects on soil C sequestration. We show that combined NPKMg additions to permanent grassland have ‘constrained’ soil C sequestration to levels similar to unfertilized plots whereas the single addition of N significantly enhanced soil C stocks (N-only fertilized soils store, on average, 11 t C ha-1 more than unfertilized soils). These results were consistent across grazing and liming treatments suggesting that whilst multi-nutrient additions increase plant productivity, soil C sequestration is increased by N-only additions. The positive N-only effect on soil C content was not related to changes in plant species diversity or to the functional composition of the plant community. N-only fertilized grasslands show, however, increases in total root mass and the accumulation of organic matter detritus in top-soils. Finally, soils receiving any N addition (N-only or N in combination with other nutrients) were associated with high N losses. Overall, our results demonstrate that nutrient fertilization remains an important global change driver of ecosystem functioning, which can strongly affect the long-term sustainability of grassland soil ecosystems (e.g. soils ability to deliver multiple ecosystem services).
    LanguageEnglish
    JournalGlobal Change Biology
    VolumeN/A
    DOIs
    Publication statusPublished - 25 Jul 2013

    Fingerprint

    grassland soil
    carbon sequestration
    nutrient
    nitrogen
    soil
    soil ecosystem
    grassland
    global change
    effect
    productivity
    liming
    ecosystem service
    detritus
    topsoil
    plant community
    species diversity
    magnesium
    human activity
    potassium
    grazing

    Cite this

    Fornara, D. A. ; Banin, Lindsay ; Crawley, Michael J. / Multi-nutrient vs. nitrogen-only effects on carbon sequestration in grassland soils. In: Global Change Biology. 2013 ; Vol. N/A.
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    abstract = "Human activities have greatly increased the availability of biologically active forms of nutrients (e.g. nitrogen (N), phosphorous (P), potassium (K), magnesium (Mg)) in many soil ecosystems worldwide. Multi-nutrient fertilization strongly increases plant productivity but may also alter the storage of carbon (C) in soil, which represents the largest terrestrial pool of organic C. Despite this issue is important from a global change perspective, key questions remain on how the single addition of N or the combination of N with other nutrients might affect C sequestration in human-managed soils. Here, we use a 19-year old nutrient addition experiment on a permanent grassland to test for nutrient-induced effects on soil C sequestration. We show that combined NPKMg additions to permanent grassland have ‘constrained’ soil C sequestration to levels similar to unfertilized plots whereas the single addition of N significantly enhanced soil C stocks (N-only fertilized soils store, on average, 11 t C ha-1 more than unfertilized soils). These results were consistent across grazing and liming treatments suggesting that whilst multi-nutrient additions increase plant productivity, soil C sequestration is increased by N-only additions. The positive N-only effect on soil C content was not related to changes in plant species diversity or to the functional composition of the plant community. N-only fertilized grasslands show, however, increases in total root mass and the accumulation of organic matter detritus in top-soils. Finally, soils receiving any N addition (N-only or N in combination with other nutrients) were associated with high N losses. Overall, our results demonstrate that nutrient fertilization remains an important global change driver of ecosystem functioning, which can strongly affect the long-term sustainability of grassland soil ecosystems (e.g. soils ability to deliver multiple ecosystem services).",
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    Multi-nutrient vs. nitrogen-only effects on carbon sequestration in grassland soils. / Fornara, D. A.; Banin, Lindsay; Crawley, Michael J.

    In: Global Change Biology, Vol. N/A, 25.07.2013.

    Research output: Contribution to journalArticle

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    AU - Crawley, Michael J

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