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Data from: Plant species richness promotes soil carbon and nitrogen stocks in grasslands without legumes

Citation

Cong, Wen-feng et al. (2014), Data from: Plant species richness promotes soil carbon and nitrogen stocks in grasslands without legumes, Dryad, Dataset, https://doi.org/10.5061/dryad.p83h7

Abstract

1. The storage of carbon (C) and nitrogen (N) in soil are important ecosystem functions. Grassland biodiversity experiments have shown a positive effect of plant diversity on soil C and N storage. However, these experiments all included legumes, which constitute an important N input through N2-fixation. Indeed, the results of these experiments suggest that N2-fixation by legumes is a major driver of soil C and N storage. 2. We studied whether plant diversity affects soil C and N storage in the absence of legumes. In an 11-years grassland biodiversity experiment without legumes, we measured soil C and N stocks. We further determined above-ground biomass productivity, standing root biomass, soil organic matter decomposition and N mineralization rates to understand the mechanisms underlying the change in soil C and N stocks in relation to plant diversity and their feedbacks to plant productivity. 3. We found that soil C and N stocks increased by 18 and 16% in eight-species mixtures compared to the average of monocultures of the same species, respectively. Increased soil C and N stocks were mainly driven by increased C input and N retention, resulting from enhanced plant productivity, which surpassed enhanced C loss from decomposition. Importantly, higher soil C and N stocks were associated with enhanced soil N mineralization rates, which can explain the strengthening of the positive diversity-productivity relationship observed in the last years of the experiment. 4. Synthesis: We demonstrated that also in the absence of legumes plant species richness promotes soil carbon (C) and nitrogen (N) stocks via increased plant productivity. In turn, enhanced soil C and N stocks showed a positive feedback to plant productivity via enhanced N mineralization, which could further accelerate soil C and N storage in the long term.

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Location

Wageningen
the Netherlands