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Nitrogen uptake in an alpine Kobresia pasture on the Tibetan plateau : Localization by 15N labeling and implications for a vulnerable ecosystem

Title data

Schleuss, Per-Marten ; Heitkampf, Felix ; Sun, Yue ; Miehe, Georg ; Xu, Xingliang ; Kuzyakov, Yakov:
Nitrogen uptake in an alpine Kobresia pasture on the Tibetan plateau : Localization by 15N labeling and implications for a vulnerable ecosystem.
In: Ecosystems. Vol. 18 (2015) Issue 6 . - pp. 946-957.
ISSN 1435-0629
DOI: https://doi.org/10.1007/s10021-015-9874-9

Official URL: Volltext

Abstract in another language

Grasslands are very important regionally and globally because they store large amounts of carbon (C) and nitrogen (N) and provide food for grazing animals. Intensive degradation of alpine grasslands in recent decades has mainly impacted the upper root-mat/soil horizon, with severe consequences for nutrient uptake in these nutrient-limited ecosystems. We used 15N labeling to identify the role of individual soil layers for N-uptake by Kobresia pygmaea—the dominating plant in the degraded Tibetan pasture ecosystems. We hypothesized a very efficient N-uptake corresponding mainly to the vertical distribution of living roots (topsoil > subsoil). We assume that K. pygmaea develops a very dense root-mat, which has to be maintained by small aboveground biomass, to enable this efficient N-uptake. Consequently, a higher N-investment into roots compared to shoots was hypothesized. The 15N recovery in whole plants (~70%) indicated very efficient N-uptake from the upper injection depths (0–5 cm). The highest 15N amounts were recovered in root biomass, whereby 15N recovery in roots strongly decreased with depth. In contrast, 15N recovery in shoots was generally low (~18%) and independent of the 15N injection depth. This clearly shows that the low N demand of Kobresia shoots can be easily covered by N-uptake from any depth. Less living root biomass in lower versus upper soil was compensated by a higher specific activity of roots for N-uptake. The 15N allocation into roots was on average 1.7 times higher than that into shoots, which agreed well with the very high R/S ratio. Increasing root biomass is an efficient strategy of K. pygmaea to compete for belowground resources at depths and periods with available resources. This implies high C-costs to maintain root biomass (~6.0 kg DM m−2), which must be covered by a very low amount of photosynthetically active shoots (0.3 kg DM m−2). It also suggests that Kobresia grasslands react extremely sensitively toward changes in climate and management that disrupt this above-/belowground trade-off mechanism.

Further data

Item Type: Article in a journal
Refereed: Yes
Additional notes: BAYCEER138934, BAYCEER141290
Keywords: Kobresia pygmaea; Root activity; Root biomass; Plant strategy; Above-belowground trade-offs; 15N partitioning; Pasture degradation
Institutions of the University: Faculties > Faculty of Biology, Chemistry and Earth Sciences > Department of Earth Sciences > Chair Soil Ecology
Research Institutions
Research Institutions > Research Centres
Research Institutions > Research Centres > Bayreuth Center of Ecology and Environmental Research- BayCEER
Faculties
Faculties > Faculty of Biology, Chemistry and Earth Sciences
Faculties > Faculty of Biology, Chemistry and Earth Sciences > Department of Earth Sciences
Result of work at the UBT: Yes
DDC Subjects: 500 Science
Date Deposited: 12 Jan 2018 12:47
Last Modified: 14 Nov 2018 09:50
URI: https://eref.uni-bayreuth.de/id/eprint/41310