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Mowing mitigates the negative impacts of N addition on plant species diversity

Yang, Guo-Jiao, Lü, Xiao-Tao, Stevens, Carly J., Zhang, Guang-Ming, Wang, Hong-Yi, Wang, Zheng-Wen, Zhang, Zi-Jia, Liu, Zhuo-Yi, Han, Xing-Guo
Oecologia 2019 v.189 no.3 pp. 769-779
Leymus chinensis, ecosystem management, ecosystems, field experimentation, grasses, meadows, mowing, nitrogen, species richness, steppes
Increasing availability of reactive nitrogen (N) threatens plant diversity in diverse ecosystems. While there is mounting evidence for the negative impacts of N deposition on one component of diversity, species richness, we know little about its effects on another one, species evenness. It is suspected that ecosystem management practice that removes nitrogen from the ecosystem, such as hay-harvesting by mowing in grasslands, would mitigate the negative impacts of N deposition on plant diversity. However, empirical evidence is scarce. Here, we reported the main and interactive effects of N deposition and mowing on plant diversity in a temperate meadow steppe with 4-year data from a field experiment within which multi-level N addition rates and multiple N compounds are considered. Across all the types of N compounds, species richness and evenness significantly decreased with the increases of N addition rate, which was mainly caused by the growth of a tall rhizomatous grass, Leymus chinensis. Such negative impacts of N addition were accumulating with time. Mowing significantly reduced the dominance of L. chinensis, and mitigated the negative impacts of N deposition on species evenness. We present robust evidence that N deposition threatened biodiversity by reducing both species richness and evenness, a process which could be alleviated by mowing. Our results highlight the changes of species evenness in driving the negative impacts of N deposition on plant diversity and the role of mowing in mediating such negative impacts of N deposition.