Species effects on nitrogen cycling: a test with perennial grasses

David A. Wedin, David Tilman

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

540 Scopus citations


To test for differing effects of plant species on nitrogen dynamics, we planted monocultures of five perennial grasses (Agropyron repens, Agrostis scabra, Poa pratensis, Schizachyrium scoparium, and Andropogon gerardi) on a series of soils ranging from sand to black soil. In situ net N mineralization was measured in the monocultures for three years. By the third year, initially identical soils under different species had diverged up to 10-fold in annual net mineralization. This divergence corresponded to differences in the tissue N concentrations, belowground lignin concentrations, and belowground biomasses of the species. These results demonstrate the potential for strong feedbacks between the species composition of vegetation and N cycling. If individual plant species can affect N mineralization and N availability, then competition for N may lead to positive or negative feedbacks between the processes controlling species composition and ecosystem processes such as N and C cycling. These feedbacks create the potential for alternative stable states for the vegetation-soil system given the same initial abiotic conditions.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)433-441
Number of pages9
Issue number4
StatePublished - Oct 1 1990


  • Grasses Litter quality
  • N mineralization
  • Nitrogen cycling
  • Species effects


Dive into the research topics of 'Species effects on nitrogen cycling: a test with perennial grasses'. Together they form a unique fingerprint.

Cite this