Phosphorus fertilization stimulates nitrogen fixation and increases inorganic nitrogen concentrations in a restored prairie

Sasha C. Reed, Timothy R. Seastedt, Colin M. Mann, Katharine N. Suding, Alan R. Townsend, Karie L. Cherwin

    Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

    Abstract

    Phosphorus (P) has been proposed to directly limit primary productivity in some temperate grassland ecosystems. Our study of a recovering prairie on Colorado's Front Range suggests that P availability, possibly via regulation of nitrogen (N) fixation, may strongly influence N availability in recovering prairie soils. Consequently, increased P availability could indirectly affect plant growth through the alleviation of N limitation. At our site, concentrations of soil inorganic N were nearly three times higher in plots fertilized with P than in control plots. Subsequent acetylene reduction analyses showed that soil N fixation rates were more than double for P fertilization plots. These results highlight potential difficulties for fertilization studies of nutrient limitation in recovering prairie ecosystems and imply opportunities for prairie restoration. Additionally, the data suggest that in nutrient poor environments such as this one, the absolute availability of soil P more strongly controls rates of N fixation than the N-to-P ratio of the soil.

    Original languageEnglish
    Pages (from-to)238-242
    Number of pages5
    JournalApplied Soil Ecology
    Volume36
    Issue number2-3
    DOIs
    StatePublished - Jun 2007

    Keywords

    • Fertilization
    • Nitrogen cycling
    • Nitrogen fixation
    • Nutrient limitation
    • Phosphorus
    • Recovering prairie

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