Long-Term Warming and Nitrogen Addition Have Contrasting Effects on Ecosystem Carbon Exchange in a Desert Steppe

Qian Wu, Haiyan Ren, Ton Bisseling, Scott X. Chang, Zhen Wang, Yuanheng Li, Zhanlei Pan, Yinghao Liu, James F. Cahill, Xu Cheng, Mengli Zhao, Zhongwu Wang, Zhiguo Li, Guodong Han*

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticleAcademicpeer-review

4 Citations (Scopus)


Desert steppe, a unique ecotone between steppe and desert in Eurasia, is considered highly vulnerable to global change. However, the long-term impact of warming and nitrogen deposition on plant biomass production and ecosystem carbon exchange in a desert steppe remains unknown. A 12-year field experiment was conducted in a Stipa breviflora desert steppe in northern China. A split-design was used, with warming simulated by infrared radiators as the primary factor and N addition as the secondary factor. Our long-term experiment shows that warming did not change net ecosystem exchange (NEE) or total aboveground biomass (TAB) due to contrasting effects on C4 (23.4% increase) and C3 (11.4% decrease) plant biomass. However, nitrogen addition increased TAB by 9.3% and NEE by 26.0% by increasing soil available N content. Thus, the studied desert steppe did not switch from a carbon sink to a carbon source in response to global change and positively responded to nitrogen deposition. Our study indicates that the desert steppe may be resilient to long-term warming by regulating plant species with contrasting photosynthetic types and that nitrogen deposition could increase plant growth and carbon sequestration, providing negative feedback on climate change.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)7256-7265
Number of pages10
JournalEnvironmental Science and Technology
Issue number11
Publication statusPublished - 20 May 2021


  • C3 and C4 plants
  • ecosystem CO2 flux
  • ecosystem resilience
  • global warming
  • nitrogen deposition
  • plant photosynthetic type


Dive into the research topics of 'Long-Term Warming and Nitrogen Addition Have Contrasting Effects on Ecosystem Carbon Exchange in a Desert Steppe'. Together they form a unique fingerprint.

Cite this