Effects of nitrogen-phosphorus imbalance on plant biomass production: a global perspective

  • Yunfeng PengEmail author
  • Zhengping Peng
  • Xieting Zeng
  • James H. HouxIII
Regular Article


Background and aims

Unparalleled inputs of anthropogenic nitrogen (N) and phosphorus (P) cause a strong N-P imbalance in terrestrial ecosystems. However, the effects of N-P imbalance on plant biomass production remains unclear.


Given that tissue N:P ratio may serve as an indicator of plant N or P limitations, we compiled a dataset reporting aboveground biomass (AGB) and tissue N:P ratio simultaneously from worldwide N addition experiments and explored the relationship between the responses of AGB and tissue N:P ratio to N enrichment.


The N-induced changes in AGB exhibited an asymptotic relationship (i.e., Michaelis-Menten function) with changes in tissue N:P ratio, indicating a progressive P limitation with increasing N. Our results further revealed that plant N and P status was related to the changes in soil inorganic N and P concentrations. Soil N increased while soil P remained unchanged with increasing N rate, thus resulting in an unbalanced soil N and P as N continues to increase.


This study is the first to report the influences of human-induced N-P imbalance on plant biomass production at the global scale. The biomass-N:P ratio relationship needs to be considered for reliable predictions of the future global carbon dynamics under global change.


C-N-P interactions Ecological stoichiometry P limitation N:P ratio N deposition Meta-analysis 



This study was financially supported by the National Natural Science Foundation of China (31770521), Hebei Science and Technology Project (17226914D) and Youth Innovation Promotion Association CAS.

Supplementary material

11104_2018_3927_MOESM1_ESM.doc (9.9 mb)
ESM 1 (DOC 9.91 mb)


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Copyright information

© Springer Nature Switzerland AG 2019

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.State Key Laboratory of Vegetation and Environmental Change, Institute of BotanyChinese Academy of SciencesBeijingChina
  2. 2.College of Resources and Environmental SciencesHebei Agricultural UniversityBaodingChina
  3. 3.Institute of Protected AgricultureChinese Academy of Agricultural EngineeringBeijingChina
  4. 4.Agriculture Research and TechnologyNational Crop Insurance ServicesOverland ParkUSA

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