Effects of rainfall manipulation and nitrogen addition on plant biomass allocation in a semiarid sandy grassland

Jing Zhang, Xiaoan Zuo*, Xueyong Zhao, Jianxia Ma, Eduardo Medina-Roldán

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

20 Citations (Scopus)


Extreme climate events and nitrogen (N) deposition are increasingly affecting the structure and function of terrestrial ecosystems. However, the response of plant biomass to variations to these global change drivers is still unclear in semi-arid regions, especially in degraded sandy grasslands. In this study, a manipulative field experiment run over two years (from 2017 to 2018) was conducted to examine the effect of rainfall alteration and nitrogen addition on biomass allocation of annuals and perennial plants in Horqin sandy grassland, Northern China. Our experiment simulated extreme rainfall and extreme drought (a 60% reduction or increment in the growing season rainfall with respect to a control background) and N addition (20 g/m2) during the growing seasons. We found that the sufficient rainfall during late July and August compensates for biomass losses caused by insufficient water in May and June. When rainfall distribution is relatively uniform during the growing season, extreme rainfall increased aboveground biomass (AGB) and belowground biomass (BGB) of annuals, while extreme drought reduced AGB and BGB of perennials. Rainfall alteration had no significant impacts on the root-shoot ratio (R/S) of sandy grassland plants, while N addition reduced R/S of grassland species when there was sufficient rainfall in the early growing season. The biomass of annuals was more sensitive to rainfall alteration and nitrogen addition than the biomass of perennials. Our findings emphasize the importance of monthly rainfall distribution patterns during the growing season, which not only directly affect the growth and development of grassland plants, but also affect the nitrogen availability of grassland plants.

Original languageEnglish
Article number9026
JournalScientific Reports
Issue number1
Publication statusPublished - 1 Dec 2020


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