Species-rich grassland can persist under nitrogen-rich but phosphorus-limited conditions

Han F. van Dobben, Wieger Wamelink, Pieter A. Slim, Jan Kamiński, Hubert Piórkowski

Research output: Contribution to journalArticleAcademicpeer-review

4 Citations (Scopus)

Abstract

Aim: Deposition of nitrogen is assumed to cause loss of botanical diversity, probably through increased production and exclusion of less competitive species. However, if production is (co-)limited by phosphorus, acceleration of the phosphorus cycle may be responsible for the diversity loss and, where that is the case, nitrogen emission reduction may turn out to be an ineffective mitigation strategy. Here we study the feasibility of this mechanism through adding potassium and phosphorus to grassland where nitrogen limitation is absent. Methods: We made vegetation relevés in a long-term agricultural fertilisation experiment where potassium, phosphorus and nitrogen were being added to grassland on drained peat where nitrogen availability was high, even in unfertilised plots. We applied a multivariate analysis to investigate the effect of additions of K, K + P and K + P + N on the species composition. Results: Unfertilised plots had a very low biomass production and were rich in plant species despite their high nitrogen availability. Addition of potassium led to a strongly increased production but did not result in a reduction of species numbers. Phosphorus in addition to potassium increased production still further and decreased species numbers, most notably the number of endangered species. Conclusions: Even under nitrogen rich conditions species richness may be high in grasslands where phosphorous provides a limitation to plant growth. Phosphorus limitation and phosphorus enrichment are both common in grassland, at least in north-western Europe. Part of the general decrease in species numbers that is commonly ascribed to nitrogen enrichment may therefore be due to phosphorus enrichment. If phosphorus and nitrogen are co-limiting (which is often the case) the current nitrogen emission reduction policies may be effective, but not sufficient to restore grassland diversity to its pre-industrial level.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)451-466
JournalPlant and Soil
Volume411
Issue number1
DOIs
Publication statusPublished - 2017

Fingerprint

grasslands
grassland
phosphorus
nitrogen
potassium
phosphorus cycle
species diversity
Western European region
endangered species
multivariate analysis
peat
biomass production
mitigation
species richness
plant growth
vegetation
biomass
experiment

Keywords

  • Biomass production
  • Co-limitation
  • Drained peat
  • Grassland
  • Mowing
  • Nutrient limitation
  • Poland
  • Species richness

Cite this

@article{02e04fd9aeb84a48be070cc45d4db61c,
title = "Species-rich grassland can persist under nitrogen-rich but phosphorus-limited conditions",
abstract = "Aim: Deposition of nitrogen is assumed to cause loss of botanical diversity, probably through increased production and exclusion of less competitive species. However, if production is (co-)limited by phosphorus, acceleration of the phosphorus cycle may be responsible for the diversity loss and, where that is the case, nitrogen emission reduction may turn out to be an ineffective mitigation strategy. Here we study the feasibility of this mechanism through adding potassium and phosphorus to grassland where nitrogen limitation is absent. Methods: We made vegetation relev{\'e}s in a long-term agricultural fertilisation experiment where potassium, phosphorus and nitrogen were being added to grassland on drained peat where nitrogen availability was high, even in unfertilised plots. We applied a multivariate analysis to investigate the effect of additions of K, K + P and K + P + N on the species composition. Results: Unfertilised plots had a very low biomass production and were rich in plant species despite their high nitrogen availability. Addition of potassium led to a strongly increased production but did not result in a reduction of species numbers. Phosphorus in addition to potassium increased production still further and decreased species numbers, most notably the number of endangered species. Conclusions: Even under nitrogen rich conditions species richness may be high in grasslands where phosphorous provides a limitation to plant growth. Phosphorus limitation and phosphorus enrichment are both common in grassland, at least in north-western Europe. Part of the general decrease in species numbers that is commonly ascribed to nitrogen enrichment may therefore be due to phosphorus enrichment. If phosphorus and nitrogen are co-limiting (which is often the case) the current nitrogen emission reduction policies may be effective, but not sufficient to restore grassland diversity to its pre-industrial level.",
keywords = "Biomass production, Co-limitation, Drained peat, Grassland, Mowing, Nutrient limitation, Poland, Species richness",
author = "{van Dobben}, {Han F.} and Wieger Wamelink and Slim, {Pieter A.} and Jan Kamiński and Hubert Pi{\'o}rkowski",
year = "2017",
doi = "10.1007/s11104-016-3021-z",
language = "English",
volume = "411",
pages = "451--466",
journal = "Plant and Soil",
issn = "0032-079X",
publisher = "Springer Verlag",
number = "1",

}

Species-rich grassland can persist under nitrogen-rich but phosphorus-limited conditions. / van Dobben, Han F.; Wamelink, Wieger; Slim, Pieter A.; Kamiński, Jan; Piórkowski, Hubert.

In: Plant and Soil, Vol. 411, No. 1, 2017, p. 451-466.

Research output: Contribution to journalArticleAcademicpeer-review

TY - JOUR

T1 - Species-rich grassland can persist under nitrogen-rich but phosphorus-limited conditions

AU - van Dobben, Han F.

AU - Wamelink, Wieger

AU - Slim, Pieter A.

AU - Kamiński, Jan

AU - Piórkowski, Hubert

PY - 2017

Y1 - 2017

N2 - Aim: Deposition of nitrogen is assumed to cause loss of botanical diversity, probably through increased production and exclusion of less competitive species. However, if production is (co-)limited by phosphorus, acceleration of the phosphorus cycle may be responsible for the diversity loss and, where that is the case, nitrogen emission reduction may turn out to be an ineffective mitigation strategy. Here we study the feasibility of this mechanism through adding potassium and phosphorus to grassland where nitrogen limitation is absent. Methods: We made vegetation relevés in a long-term agricultural fertilisation experiment where potassium, phosphorus and nitrogen were being added to grassland on drained peat where nitrogen availability was high, even in unfertilised plots. We applied a multivariate analysis to investigate the effect of additions of K, K + P and K + P + N on the species composition. Results: Unfertilised plots had a very low biomass production and were rich in plant species despite their high nitrogen availability. Addition of potassium led to a strongly increased production but did not result in a reduction of species numbers. Phosphorus in addition to potassium increased production still further and decreased species numbers, most notably the number of endangered species. Conclusions: Even under nitrogen rich conditions species richness may be high in grasslands where phosphorous provides a limitation to plant growth. Phosphorus limitation and phosphorus enrichment are both common in grassland, at least in north-western Europe. Part of the general decrease in species numbers that is commonly ascribed to nitrogen enrichment may therefore be due to phosphorus enrichment. If phosphorus and nitrogen are co-limiting (which is often the case) the current nitrogen emission reduction policies may be effective, but not sufficient to restore grassland diversity to its pre-industrial level.

AB - Aim: Deposition of nitrogen is assumed to cause loss of botanical diversity, probably through increased production and exclusion of less competitive species. However, if production is (co-)limited by phosphorus, acceleration of the phosphorus cycle may be responsible for the diversity loss and, where that is the case, nitrogen emission reduction may turn out to be an ineffective mitigation strategy. Here we study the feasibility of this mechanism through adding potassium and phosphorus to grassland where nitrogen limitation is absent. Methods: We made vegetation relevés in a long-term agricultural fertilisation experiment where potassium, phosphorus and nitrogen were being added to grassland on drained peat where nitrogen availability was high, even in unfertilised plots. We applied a multivariate analysis to investigate the effect of additions of K, K + P and K + P + N on the species composition. Results: Unfertilised plots had a very low biomass production and were rich in plant species despite their high nitrogen availability. Addition of potassium led to a strongly increased production but did not result in a reduction of species numbers. Phosphorus in addition to potassium increased production still further and decreased species numbers, most notably the number of endangered species. Conclusions: Even under nitrogen rich conditions species richness may be high in grasslands where phosphorous provides a limitation to plant growth. Phosphorus limitation and phosphorus enrichment are both common in grassland, at least in north-western Europe. Part of the general decrease in species numbers that is commonly ascribed to nitrogen enrichment may therefore be due to phosphorus enrichment. If phosphorus and nitrogen are co-limiting (which is often the case) the current nitrogen emission reduction policies may be effective, but not sufficient to restore grassland diversity to its pre-industrial level.

KW - Biomass production

KW - Co-limitation

KW - Drained peat

KW - Grassland

KW - Mowing

KW - Nutrient limitation

KW - Poland

KW - Species richness

U2 - 10.1007/s11104-016-3021-z

DO - 10.1007/s11104-016-3021-z

M3 - Article

VL - 411

SP - 451

EP - 466

JO - Plant and Soil

JF - Plant and Soil

SN - 0032-079X

IS - 1

ER -