IPI International Potash Institute
IPI International Potash Institute

Scientific abstracts

Title:
Effects of Nitrogen, Phosphorus and Potassium Addition on the Productivity of a Karst Grassland: Plant Functional Group and Community Perspectives
Authors:
Liu, C., Y. Liu, K. Guo, X. Qiao, H. Zhao, S. Wang, L. Zhang, and X. Cai.
Published in:
Ecological Engineering 117:84-95 (2018), English

Abstract:

Rocky desertification is currently the most serious ecological and environmental problem in karst region of southwestern China. Its negative consequences for both natural ecosystems and the human inhabitants of the karst region have created a need for effective ecosystem restoration strategies, but success in these efforts has been limited. We hypothesized that scarcity of mineral nutrients could be a crucial factor in vegetation recovery, but relatively little information is available about the limiting roles of various mineral elements. We investigated responses of aboveground biomass and nutrient concentrations of a degraded karst grassland to nitrogen (N), Phosphorus (P) and Potassium (K) additions over a period of three years. Nutrient additions significantly increased aboveground biomass and nutrient concentrations for both the plant community and individual plant functional groups. Total aboveground biomass was significantly increased by N (by 35.6%), P (by 35.3%) and K (by 11.7%) fertilization over three years of nutrient additions. The interaction effects of year × N and year × P on total biomass were significant. Additions of N and P increased the biomass of grasses by 39.2% and 15.0%, respectively, and additions of P increased the biomass of forbs by 69.3%. The biomass of shrubs was significantly increased by P (by 111.3%), K (by 45.3%) and N (by 38.5%), and there were strong interaction effects of N, P and K on shrub biomass. P and K additions significantly increased the relative biomass of shrubs but decreased that of grasses, especially under the NPK treatment. Our results suggest that the productivity of degraded grassland in the karst region of China is co-limited by N, P and K, with N and P being the primary limiting factors. Among functional groups, grasses are mainly limited by N and P, forbs by P, and shrubs by all 3 elements, with P being the most limiting factor overall. Mineral fertilization stimulates plant growth and may be a useful tool in efforts to restore woody vegetation in degraded grasslands, thus counteracting the process of rock desertification in the karst region of southwestern China.

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