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This article in SSSAJ

  1. Vol. 71 No. 3, p. 720-729
    Received: June 1, 2006

    * Corresponding author(s): yvonne.oelmann@uni-mainz.de


Soil and Plant Nitrogen Pools as Related to Plant Diversity in an Experimental Grassland

  1. Yvonne Oelmann *ab,
  2. Wolfgang Wilckeb,
  3. Vicky M. Tempertonc,
  4. Nina Buchmannd,
  5. Christiane Roschere,
  6. Jens Schumachere,
  7. Ernst-Detlef Schulzee and
  8. Wolfgang W. Weisserf
  1. a Inst. of Ecology, Dep. of Soil Science, Berlin Univ. of Technology, Salzufer 11-12, D-10587 Berlin, Germany
    b Geographic Inst., Professorship of Soil Geography/Soil Science, Johannes Gutenberg Univ., Johann-Joachim-Becherweg 21, D-55128 Mainz, Germany
    c Inst. of Chemistry and Dynamics of the Geosphere, ICGIII Phytosphere Inst., Jülich Research Centre, D-52425 Jülich, Germany
    d Inst. of Plant Sciences, ETH Zentrum LFW C56, Universitätsstrasse 2, CH-8092 Zurich, Switzerland
    e Max Planck Inst. for Biogeochemistry, P.O. Box 100164, D-07701 Jena, Germany
    f Inst. of Ecology, Friedrich Schiller Univ. of Jena, Dornburger Straße 159, D-07743 Jena, Germany


Increasing plant species richness decreases soil NO3 concentrations in experimental plant mixtures, but the role of particular plant functional groups has remained unclear. Most analyses have focused on particular times of the year or were restricted to NO3 We tested whether plant species richness or particular plant functional groups affect the size of plant-available N pools in soil (KCl-extractable NO3 , dissolved inorganic N and organic N [DON] and total dissolved N [TDN] in soil solution) and N concentrations and pools in aboveground biomass. Furthermore, we assessed seasonal variations in the effects of plant species richness and plant functional groups. The experimental grassland site had 86 plots with different combinations of numbers of species (1, 2, 4, 8, 16, and 60) and numbers of functional groups (1, 2, 3, and 4, being grasses, small nonlegume herbs, tall nonlegume herbs, and legumes). In the second year after establishment, increasing species richness reduced soil NO3 concentrations (ANOVA, 11% of sum of squares [SS]). The presence of legumes correlated positively with soil NO3 concentrations (17% of SS). The presence of grasses significantly decreased soil NO3 concentrations (11% of SS). Seasonality had no influence on the relationships between NO3 concentrations and species richness. Volume-weighted mean DON and TDN concentrations in soil solution correlated negatively with species richness. Nitrogen pools in plant mixture biomass correlated positively with species diversity (14% of SS), indicating that total N uptake increased with increasing diversity. We conclude that both diversity (either in species or functional groups) and functional composition of grassland mixtures are significant controls of soil and plant N pools. Plant communities with more diverse mixtures are liable to use limiting resources such as N more effectively.

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