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Organic phosphorus cycling may control grassland responses to nitrogen deposition: a long-term field manipulation and modelling study

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<mark>Journal publication date</mark>6/07/2021
Issue number13
Number of pages17
Pages (from-to)4021-4037
Publication StatusPublished
<mark>Original language</mark>English


Ecosystems limited in phosphorous (P) are widespread, yet there is limited understanding of how these ecosystems may respond to anthropogenic deposition of nitrogen (N) and the interconnected effects on the biogeochemical cycling of carbon (C), N, and P. Here, we investigate the consequences of enhanced N addition for the C–N–P pools of two P-limited grasslands, one acidic and one limestone, occurring on contrasting soils, and we explore their responses to a long-term nutrient-manipulation experiment. We do this by combining data with an integrated C–N–P cycling model (N14CP). We explore the role of P-access mechanisms by allowing these to vary in the modelling framework and comparing model plant–soil C–N–P outputs to empirical data. Combinations of organic P access and inorganic P availability most closely representing empirical data were used to simulate the grasslands and quantify their temporal response to nutrient manipulation. The model suggested that access to organic P is a key determinant of grassland nutrient limitation and responses to experimental N and P manipulation. A high rate of organic P access allowed the acidic grassland to overcome N-induced P limitation, increasing biomass C input to soil and promoting soil organic carbon (SOC) sequestration in response to N addition. Conversely, poor accessibility of organic P for the limestone grassland meant N provision exacerbated P limitation and reduced biomass input to the soil, reducing soil carbon storage. Plant acquisition of organic P may therefore play an important role in reducing P limitation and determining responses to anthropogenic changes in nutrient availability. We conclude that grasslands differing in their access to organic P may respond to N deposition in contrasting ways, and where access is limited, soil organic carbon stocks could decline.