Soil carbon sequestration in prairie grasslands increased by chronic nitrogen addition

Fornara, Dario A
Tilman, David
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Human-induced increases in nitrogen (N) deposition are common across many terrestrial ecosystems worldwide. Greater N availability not only reduces biological diversity, but also affects the biogeochemical coupling of carbon (C) and N cycles in soil ecosystems. Soils are the largest active terrestrial C pool and N deposition effects on soil C sequestration or release could have global importance. Here, we show that 27 years of chronic N additions to prairie grasslands increased C sequestration in mineral soils and that a potential mechanism responsible for this C accrual was an N-induced increase in root mass. Greater soil C sequestration followed a dramatic shift in plant community composition from native-species-rich C4 grasslands to naturalized-species-rich C3 grasslands, which, despite lower soil C gains per unit of N added, still acted as soil C sinks. Since both high plant diversity and elevated N deposition may increase soil C sequestration, but N deposition also decreases plant diversity, more research is needed to address the long-term implications for soil C storage of these two factors. Finally, because exotic C3 grasses often come to dominate N-enriched grasslands, it is important to determine if such N-dependent soil C sequestration occurs across C3 grasslands in other regions worldwide.
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Grassland Society of Southern Africa

The Grassland Society of Southern Africa (GSSA) is involved and concerned with the science and practice of range and pasture management. This broad field involves primarily the use and conservation of natural resources. It encompasses applied fields such as livestock production, wildlife management, nature conservation, water catchment management and range and mine-dump rehabilitation. The disciplines include, amongst others, ecology, botany zoology, range and pasture science, animal science, soil science and genetics. This collection includes journal articles from the African Journal of Range and Forage Science as well as related articles and reports from throughout the Southern African region.