Soil carbon sequestration in prairie grasslands increased by chronic nitrogen addition

D. A. Fornara, D. Tilman

    Research output: Contribution to journalArticle

    65 Citations (Scopus)

    Abstract

    Human-induced increases in nitrogen (N) deposition are common across many terrestrial ecosystems worldwide. Greater N availability not only reduces biological diversity but also affects the biogeochemical coupling of carbon (C) and N cycles in soil ecosystems. Soils are the largest active terrestrial C pool, and N deposition effects on soil C sequestration or release could have global importance. Here we show that 27-years of chronic N additions to prairie grasslands increased C sequestration in mineral soils and that a potential mechanism responsible for this C accrual was an N-induced increase in root mass. Greater soil C sequestration followed a dramatic shift in plant community composition from native species-rich C4-grasslands to naturalized species-poor C3-grasslands, which despite lower soil C gains per unit of N added, still acted as soil C sinks. Since both high plant diversity and elevated N deposition may increase soil C sequestration, but N deposition also decreases plant diversity, more research is needed to address the long-term implications for soil C storage of these two factors. Finally, because exotic C3 grasses often come to dominate N-enriched grasslands, it is important to determine if such N-dependent soil C sequestration occurs across C3-grasslands in other regions worldwide.
    LanguageEnglish
    Pages2030-2036
    JournalEcology
    Volume93
    DOIs
    Publication statusPublished - 6 Jun 2012

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    soil carbon
    carbon sequestration
    prairie
    grassland
    nitrogen
    soil
    soil ecosystem
    terrestrial ecosystem
    native species
    community composition
    plant community
    grass
    carbon
    mineral

    Cite this

    Fornara, D. A. ; Tilman, D. / Soil carbon sequestration in prairie grasslands increased by chronic nitrogen addition. In: Ecology. 2012 ; Vol. 93. pp. 2030-2036.
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    Soil carbon sequestration in prairie grasslands increased by chronic nitrogen addition. / Fornara, D. A.; Tilman, D.

    In: Ecology, Vol. 93, 06.06.2012, p. 2030-2036.

    Research output: Contribution to journalArticle

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    T1 - Soil carbon sequestration in prairie grasslands increased by chronic nitrogen addition

    AU - Fornara, D. A.

    AU - Tilman, D.

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    N2 - Human-induced increases in nitrogen (N) deposition are common across many terrestrial ecosystems worldwide. Greater N availability not only reduces biological diversity but also affects the biogeochemical coupling of carbon (C) and N cycles in soil ecosystems. Soils are the largest active terrestrial C pool, and N deposition effects on soil C sequestration or release could have global importance. Here we show that 27-years of chronic N additions to prairie grasslands increased C sequestration in mineral soils and that a potential mechanism responsible for this C accrual was an N-induced increase in root mass. Greater soil C sequestration followed a dramatic shift in plant community composition from native species-rich C4-grasslands to naturalized species-poor C3-grasslands, which despite lower soil C gains per unit of N added, still acted as soil C sinks. Since both high plant diversity and elevated N deposition may increase soil C sequestration, but N deposition also decreases plant diversity, more research is needed to address the long-term implications for soil C storage of these two factors. Finally, because exotic C3 grasses often come to dominate N-enriched grasslands, it is important to determine if such N-dependent soil C sequestration occurs across C3-grasslands in other regions worldwide.

    AB - Human-induced increases in nitrogen (N) deposition are common across many terrestrial ecosystems worldwide. Greater N availability not only reduces biological diversity but also affects the biogeochemical coupling of carbon (C) and N cycles in soil ecosystems. Soils are the largest active terrestrial C pool, and N deposition effects on soil C sequestration or release could have global importance. Here we show that 27-years of chronic N additions to prairie grasslands increased C sequestration in mineral soils and that a potential mechanism responsible for this C accrual was an N-induced increase in root mass. Greater soil C sequestration followed a dramatic shift in plant community composition from native species-rich C4-grasslands to naturalized species-poor C3-grasslands, which despite lower soil C gains per unit of N added, still acted as soil C sinks. Since both high plant diversity and elevated N deposition may increase soil C sequestration, but N deposition also decreases plant diversity, more research is needed to address the long-term implications for soil C storage of these two factors. Finally, because exotic C3 grasses often come to dominate N-enriched grasslands, it is important to determine if such N-dependent soil C sequestration occurs across C3-grasslands in other regions worldwide.

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