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New Phytol. 2011 Mar;189(4):1040-50. doi: 10.1111/j.1469-8137.2010.03563.x. Epub 2010 Dec 7.

Responses of ecosystem nitrogen cycle to nitrogen addition: a meta-analysis.

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Coastal Ecosystems Research Station of the Yangtze River Estuary, Ministry of Education Key Laboratory for Biodiversity Science and Ecological Engineering, The Institute of Biodiversity Science, Fudan University, 220 Handan Road, Shanghai 200433, China.


• Anthropogenic nitrogen (N) addition may substantially alter the terrestrial N cycle. However, a comprehensive understanding of how the ecosystem N cycle responds to external N input remains elusive. • Here, we evaluated the central tendencies of the responses of 15 variables associated with the ecosystem N cycle to N addition, using data extracted from 206 peer-reviewed papers. • Our results showed that the largest changes in the ecosystem N cycle caused by N addition were increases in soil inorganic N leaching (461%), soil NO₃⁻ concentration (429%), nitrification (154%), nitrous oxide emission (134%), and denitrification (84%). N addition also substantially increased soil NH₄+ concentration (47%), and the N content in belowground (53%) and aboveground (44%) plant pools, leaves (24%), litter (24%) and dissolved organic N (21%). Total N content in the organic horizon (6.1%) and mineral soil (6.2%) slightly increased in response to N addition. However, N addition induced a decrease in microbial biomass N by 5.8%. • The increases in N effluxes caused by N addition were much greater than those in plant and soil pools except soil NO₃⁻, suggesting a leaky terrestrial N system.

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