Plant and Soil

, Volume 334, Issue 1–2, pp 209–219 | Cite as

Nitrogen fertilization and fire act independently on foliar stoichiometry in a temperate steppe

  • Qiang Cui
  • Xiao-Tao Lü
  • Qi-Bing Wang
  • Xing-Guo Han
Regular Article


Nitrogen (N) fertilization, as a grassland management strategy, has been widely used to improve forage quality and increase the productivity of grasslands degraded by overstocking. It is widely accepted that N addition will alter ecosystem structure and function, and that these effects may be altered by natural disturbances, such as fire. We examined the effects of annual burning and N fertilization (17.5 g N m−2 year−1, at a surplus rate in order to simulate agriculture treatment) on foliar chemistry and stoichiometric ratios of eight dominant species (Leymus chinensis, Stipa grandis, Cleistogenes squarrosa, Potentilla bifurca, Thalictrum squarrosum, Artemisia frigida, Kochia prostrata and Caragana microphylla) in a temperate steppe in northern China. After 3 years of treatments, annual burning significantly increased soil extractable phosphorus (P) concentration but showed no effects on soil inorganic N concentration, whereas N fertilization caused a significant increase in inorganic N concentration but not of extractable P. Species differed substantially with respect to all nutritional and stoichiometric variables. Both annual burning and N fertilization caused significant increases in foliar N and P concentrations and thus decreases in carbon (C):N and C:P ratios. While annual burning showed no effects on N:P ratios, N fertilization produced higher N:P ratios. However, species responded idiosyncratically to both fire and N fertilization in terms of foliar N concentration, C:N and N:P ratio. In addition, there was no interaction between fire and N fertilization that affected all variables. This study suggests that both annual burning and N fertilization have direct impacts on plant elemental composition and that fire- and N addition-induced changes of community composition may have important consequences for plant-mediated biogeochemical cycling pathways in temperate steppe ecosystem.


C:N:P Ecological stoichiometry Grassland Nitrogen addition Prescribed burning Restoration 



We gratefully acknowledge Deliang Kong, Weijun Wu, Qiang Li for field and laboratory assistance, Arianne Cease for language improvement and valuable comments on the earlier versions of this manuscript. We thank two anonymous reviewers and Harry Olde Venterink for their thoughtful comments, which helped in improving the manuscript. This research was supported by the State Key Basic Research Development Program of China (2007CB106801) and the National Natural Science Foundation of China (30830026, 30821062).


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Copyright information

© Springer Science+Business Media B.V. 2010

Authors and Affiliations

  • Qiang Cui
    • 1
    • 2
  • Xiao-Tao Lü
    • 1
  • Qi-Bing Wang
    • 1
  • Xing-Guo Han
    • 1
  1. 1.State Key Laboratory of Vegetation and Environmental ChangeInstitute of Botany, Chinese Academy of SciencesBeijingPeople’s Republic of China
  2. 2.Graduate University of Chinese Academy of SciencesBeijingChina

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