Biomass and Species Diversity of Different Alpine Plant Communities Respond Differently to Nitrogen Deposition and Experimental Warming

Plants (Basel). 2021 Dec 10;10(12):2719. doi: 10.3390/plants10122719.

ABSTRACT

The ability of fragile ecosystems of alpine regions to adapt and thrive under warming and nitrogen deposition is a pressing conservation concern. The lack of information on how these ecosystems respond to the combined impacts of elevated levels of nitrogen and a warming climate limits the sustainable management approaches of alpine grasslands. In this study, we experimented using a completely random blocked design to examine the effects of warming and nitrogen deposition on the aboveground biomass and diversity of alpine grassland plant communities. The experiment was carried out from 2015 to 2018 in four vegetation types, e.g., alpine desert, alpine desert steppe, alpine marsh, and alpine salinised meadow, in the Aerjin Mountain Nature Reserve (AMNR) on the Qinghai-Tibetan Plateau (QTP). We found that W (warming) and WN (warming plus N deposition) treatment significantly increased the aboveground biomass of all the vegetation types (p < 0.05) in 2018. However, W and WN treatment only significantly increased the Shannon diversity of salinised meadows in 2018 and had no significant effect on the Shannon diversity of other vegetation types. Such results suggested that long-term nitrogen deposition and warming can consistently stimulate biomass accumulation of the alpine plant communities. Compared with other vegetation types, the diversity of alpine salinised meadows are generally more susceptible to long-term warming and warming combined with N deposition. Warming accounts many of such variabilities, while short-term N deposition alone may not significantly have an evident effect on the productivity and diversity of alpine grasslands. Our findings suggested that the effects of short-term (≤4 years) N deposition on alpine vegetation productivity and diversity were minimal, while long-term warming (>4 years) will be much more favourable for alpine vegetation.

PMID:34961187 | PMC:PMC8703334 | DOI:10.3390/plants10122719

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