Plant diversity, CO2, and N influence inorganic and organic N leaching in grasslands

Feike A. Dijkstra, Jason B. West, Sarah E. Hobbie, Peter B. Reich, Jared Trost

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46 Scopus citations


In nitrogen (N)-limited systems, the potential to sequester carbon depends on the balance between N inputs and losses as well as on how efficiently N is used, yet little is known about responses of these processes to changes in plant species richness, atmospheric CO2 concentration ([CO2]), and N deposition. We examined how plant species richness (1 or 16 species), elevated [CO2] (ambient or 560 ppm), and inorganic N addition (0 or 4 g·m-2·yr-1) affected ecosystem N losses, specifically leaching of dissolved inorganic N (DIN) and organic N (DON) in a grassland field experiment in Minnesota, USA. We observed greater DIN leaching below 60 cm soil depth in the monoculture plots (on average 1.8 and 3.1 g N·m-2·yr-1 for ambient N and N-fertilized plots respectively) than in the 16-species plots (0.2 g N·m -2·yr-1 for both ambient N and N-fertilized plots), particularly when inorganic N was added. Most likely, loss of complementary resource use and reduced biological N demand in the monoculture plots caused the increase in DIN leaching relative to the high-diversity plots. Elevated [CO2] reduced DIN concentrations under conditions when DIN concentrations were high (i.e., in N-fertilized and monoculture plots). Contrary to the results for DIN, DON leaching was greater in the 16-species plots than in the monoculture plots (on average 0.4 g N·m -2·yr-1 in 16-species plots and 0.2 g N·m2·yr-1 in monoculture plots). In fact, DON dominated N leaching in the 16-species plots (64% of total N leaching as DON), suggesting that, even with high biological demand for N, substantial amounts of N can be lost as DON. We found no significant main effects of elevated [CO2] on DIN or DON leaching; however, elevated [CO 2] reduced the positive effect of inorganic N addition on DON leaching, especially during the second year of observation. Our results suggest that plant species richness, elevated [CO2], and N deposition alter DIN loss primarily through changes in biological N demand. DON losses can be as large as DIN loss but are more sensitive to organic matter production and turnover.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)490-500
Number of pages11
Issue number2
StatePublished - Feb 2007


  • Dissolved inorganic nitrogen
  • Dissolved organic nitrogen
  • Drainage
  • Elevated CO
  • Grassland
  • Leaching
  • Lysimeter
  • Nitrogen deposition
  • Nitrogen loss
  • Plant species richness


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