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Data from: Drivers of foliar 15N trends in southern China over the last century

Cite this dataset

Tang, Songbo et al. (2022). Data from: Drivers of foliar 15N trends in southern China over the last century [Dataset]. Dryad.


Foliar stable nitrogen (N) isotopes (δ15N) generally reflect N availability to plants and have been used to infer about changes thereof. However, previous studies of temporal trends in foliar δ15N have ignored the influence of confounding factors, leading to uncertainties on its indication to N availability. In this study, we measured foliar δ15N of 1,811 herbarium specimens from 12 plant species collected in southern China forests from 1920 to 2010. We explored how changes in atmospheric CO2, N deposition and global warming have affected foliar δ15N and N concentrations ([N]) and identified whether N availability decreased in southern China. Across all species, foliar δ15N significantly decreased by 0.82‰ over the study period. However, foliar [N] did not decrease significantly, implying N homeostasis in forest trees in the region. The spatiotemporal patterns of foliar δ15N were explained by mean annual temperature (MAT), atmospheric CO2 (PCO2), atmospheric N deposition, and foliar [N]. The spatiotemporal trends of foliar [N] were explained by MAT, temperature seasonality, PCO2, and N deposition. N deposition within the rates from 5.3 – 12.6 kg N ha-1 yr-1 substantially contributed to the temporal decline in foliar δ15N. The decline in foliar δ15N was not accompanied by changes in foliar [N] and therefore does not necessarily reflect a decline in N availability. This is important to understand changes in N availability, which is essential to validate and parameterize biogeochemical cycles of N.