Precipitation overrides warming in mediating soil nitrogen pools in an alpine grassland ecosystem on the Tibetan Plateau
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Soils in the alpine grassland store a large amount of nitrogen (N) due to slow decomposition. However, the decomposition could be affected by climate change, which has profound impacts on soil N cycling. We investigated the changes of soil total N and five labile N stocks in the topsoil, the subsoil and the entire soil profile in response to three years of experimental warming and altered precipitation in a Tibetan alpine grassland. We found that warming significantly increased soil nitrate N stock and decreased microbial biomass N (MBN) stock. Increased precipitation reduced nitrate N, dissolved organic N and amino acid N stocks, but increased MBN stock in the topsoil. No change in soil total N was detected under warming and altered precipitation regimes. Redundancy analysis further revealed that soil moisture (26.3%) overrode soil temperature (10.4%) in explaining the variations of soil N stocks across the treatments. Our results suggest that precipitation exerted stronger influence than warming on soil N pools in this mesic and high-elevation grassland ecosystem. This indicates that the projected rise in future precipitation may lead to a significant loss of dissolved soil N pools by stimulating the biogeochemical processes in this alpine grassland.
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