Effects of simulated nitrogen deposition on soil respiration components and their temperature sensitivities in a semiarid grassland

Chunping Zhang, Decao Niu, Sharon J. Hall, Haiyan Wen, Xudong Li, Hua Fu, Changgui Wan, James J. Elser

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Nitrogen (N) deposition to semiarid ecosystems is increasing globally, yet few studies have investigated the ecological consequences of N enrichment in these ecosystems. Furthermore, soil CO2 flux - including plant root and microbial respiration - is a key feedback to ecosystem carbon (C) cycling that links ecosystem processes to climate, yet few studies have investigated the effects of N enrichment on belowground processes in water-limited ecosystems. In this study, we conducted two-level N addition experiments to investigate the effects of N enrichment on microbial and root respiration in a grassland ecosystem on the Loess Plateau in northwestern China. Two years of high N additions (9.2gNm-2y-1) significantly increased soil CO2 flux, including both microbial and root respiration, particularly during the warm growing season. Low N additions (2.3gNm-2y-1) increased microbial respiration during the growing season only, but had no significant effects on root respiration. The annual temperature coefficients (Q10) of soil respiration and microbial respiration ranged from 1.86 to 3.00 and 1.86 to 2.72 respectively, and there was a significant decrease in Q10 between the control and the N treatments during the non-growing season but no difference was found during the growing season. Following nitrogen additions, elevated rates of root respiration were significantly and positively related to root N concentrations and biomass, while elevated rates of microbial respiration were related to soil microbial biomass C (SMBC). The microbial respiration tended to respond more sensitively to N addition, while the root respiration did not have similar response. The different mechanisms of N addition impacts on soil respiration and its components and their sensitivity to temperature identified in this study may facilitate the simulation and prediction of C cycling and storage in semiarid grasslands under future scenarios of global change.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)113-123
Number of pages11
JournalSoil Biology and Biochemistry
StatePublished - Aug 2014


  • Loess Plateau
  • Microbial respiration
  • Nitrogen addition
  • Root respiration
  • Soil respiration


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