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Measured estimates of semi-natural terrestrial NPP in Great Britain: comparison with modelled values, and dependence on atmospheric nitrogen deposition

Research output: Contribution to journalJournal article

<mark>Journal publication date</mark>30/07/2019
Issue number2
Number of pages13
Pages (from-to)215-227
Publication StatusPublished
Early online date13/07/19
<mark>Original language</mark>English


Plant growth in nitrogen (N)-limited, unfertilised terrestrial ecosystems should respond to additional N inputs from atmospheric deposition (Ndep). We investigated this for sites in Great Britain (GB) by compiling 796 estimates of net primary productivity (NPP) from measured biomass production over the period 1932–2014, although the great majority were for 1990 onwards. The sites were largely vegetated with shrubs, grass and bracken, and had a wide range of Ndep (0.5–3.3 gN m−2 a−1 in 2000). The measured NPP estimates were compared with calculated values from the biogeochemical ecosystem model N14CP, which predicts that NPP depends strongly upon Ndep. The measured and modelled average total NPP values (gC m−2 a−1) from all data were 387 (standard deviation, SD = 193) and 377 (SD = 72) respectively. Measured and modelled averages for vegetation classes followed the sequence: broadleaved trees ~ needle-leaved trees > herbs (rough grassland + bracken) ~ shrubs. After averaging measured values for sites in individual model grid cells (5 km × 5 km) with 10 or more replicates, the measured and modelled NPP values were correlated (n = 26, r2 = 0.22, p = 0.011), with a slope close to unity. Significant linear relationships were found between measured ln NPP and cumulative Ndep for both herbs (n = 298, p = 0.021) and shrubs (n = 473, p = 0.006), with slopes comparable to those predicted with the model. The results suggest that semi-natural NPP in GB depends positively upon Ndep, in a manner that agrees quantitatively with N14CP predictions. Calculations with the model, using modelled temporal variation in Ndep, indicate that fertilisation by Ndep caused average increases in semi-natural NPP over the period 1800 to 2010 of 30% for shrubs, 71% for herbs, and 91% for broadleaved trees. Combined with previous published results for forests, our findings suggest a general and widespread vegetation response to fertilisation by Ndep.

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The final publication is available at Springer via http://dx.doi.org/10.1007/s10533-019-00582-5