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Aboveground biomass and root/shoot ratio regulated drought susceptibility of ecosystem carbon exchange in a meadow steppe

Wang, Yunbo, Meng, Bo, Zhong, Shangzhi, Wang, Deli, Ma, Jianying, Sun, Wei
Plant and soil 2018 v.432 no.1-2 pp. 259-272
aboveground biomass, carbon, carbon dioxide, community structure, drought, dry matter partitioning, ecological function, ecosystems, fertilizer application, habitats, meadows, net ecosystem exchange, nitrogen, nitrogen fertilizers, photosynthesis, plant growth, rehydration, roots, shoots, species diversity, steppes, water stress
BACKGROUND AND AIMS: Nitrogen deposition and altered precipitation regime are likely to change plant growth, biomass allocation and community structure, which may influence susceptibility of ecosystem functions (i.e. ecosystem carbon exchange) to extreme climatic events, such as drought. METHODS: In a meadow steppe, we deployed a drought treatment on a long-term water and nitrogen addition experiment to investigate resource abundance changes induced variation in the sensitivity of ecosystem carbon exchange to extreme drought. RESULTS: Compared to the control plots, long-term water and nitrogen addition caused a strong increase in biomass, and a reduction in diversity and root/shoot ratio. Net ecosystem CO₂ exchange (NEE) in water and nitrogen addition plots were more sensitive to drought stress than the control plots. The enhanced NEE drought sensitivity (SNEE) in nitrogen fertilization habitat is associated with changes in aboveground biomass and root/shoot ratio, rather than variation in species diversity, while SNEE in the unfertilized plots was controlled by root/shoot ratio. Compared to the water and nitrogen addition plots, the control plots had the highest percentage recovery of ecosystem carbon exchange (RNEE) during the rehydration period. RNEE is likely determined by aboveground biomass and level of damage in the photosynthetic organ. CONCLUSION: These findings suggest that long-term changes in precipitation regimes and nitrogen deposition may significant alter the susceptibility of key ecosystem processes to drought stress.