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Increased precipitation induces a positive plant-soil feedback in a semi-arid grassland

Ren, Haiyan, Xu, Zhuwen, Huang, Jianhui, Lü, Xiaotao, Zeng, De-Hui, Yuan, Zhiyou, Han, Xingguo, Fang, Yunting
Plant and soil 2015 v.389 no.1-2 pp. 211-223
arid lands, field experimentation, grasslands, nitrogen, nutrient availability, nutrient resorption (physiology), phosphorus, plant growth, resorption, soil
BACKGROUND AND AIMS: Given that plant growth is often water limited in drylands, it has been proposed that water seems to influence productivity by altering physiological/metabolic responses and nutrient availability in short term. It is unclear, however, whether water mediates a positive plant-soil feedback and whether the feedback drives variations in plant productivity. METHODS: A 4-year field experiment was performed to examine the effects of water and nitrogen (N) addition on nutrient concentrations in soil and plant, nutrient resorption and potential return, in a temperate grassland in northern China. RESULTS: Water addition enhanced plant N and phosphorus (P) concentrations but reduced plant N and P resorption efficiency, leading to the increased potential N and P return to soil via litterfall. Enhanced nutrient potential return likely contributed to an increase of plant productivity in the following year. These “fertilization effects” caused by water addition were similar to those by N addition. CONCLUSIONS: Our study suggests that the positive plant-soil feedback induced by increased precipitation may have a role in water-induced increases in productivity, and highlights the “fertilization effect” of water addition in a semiarid grassland in short term.