TitleNegative effects of nitrogen override positive effects of phosphorus on grassland legumes worldwide.
Publication TypeJournal Article
Year of Publication2021
AuthorsTognetti PM, Prober SM, Báez S, Chaneton EJ, Firn J, Risch AC, Schuetz M, Simonsen AK, Yahdjian L, Borer ET, Seabloom EW, Arnillas CAlberto, Bakker JD, Brown CS, Cadotte MW, Caldeira MC, Daleo P, Dwyer JM, Fay PA, Gherardi LA, Hagenah N, Hautier Y, Komatsu KJ, McCulley RL, Price JN, Standish RJ, Stevens CJ, Wragg PD, Sankaran M
JournalProc Natl Acad Sci U S A
Date Published2021 Jul 13

Anthropogenic nutrient enrichment is driving global biodiversity decline and modifying ecosystem functions. Theory suggests that plant functional types that fix atmospheric nitrogen have a competitive advantage in nitrogen-poor soils, but lose this advantage with increasing nitrogen supply. By contrast, the addition of phosphorus, potassium, and other nutrients may benefit such species in low-nutrient environments by enhancing their nitrogen-fixing capacity. We present a global-scale experiment confirming these predictions for nitrogen-fixing legumes (Fabaceae) across 45 grasslands on six continents. Nitrogen addition reduced legume cover, richness, and biomass, particularly in nitrogen-poor soils, while cover of non-nitrogen-fixing plants increased. The addition of phosphorous, potassium, and other nutrients enhanced legume abundance, but did not mitigate the negative effects of nitrogen addition. Increasing nitrogen supply thus has the potential to decrease the diversity and abundance of grassland legumes worldwide regardless of the availability of other nutrients, with consequences for biodiversity, food webs, ecosystem resilience, and genetic improvement of protein-rich agricultural plant species.

Alternate JournalProc Natl Acad Sci U S A
PubMed ID34260386