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Science of The Total Environment
Volume 703, 2020, 134691

Responses of soil extracellular enzyme activities and microbial community properties to interaction between nitrogen addition and increased precipitation in a semi-arid grassland ecosystem

Wenjun Maa,1, Jian Lib,1, Ying Gaoa, Fu Xinga, Shengnan Sunc, Tao Zhanga, Xingzun Zhua, Chen Chena, Zhuo Lia

Institute of Grassland Science, Northeast Normal University, Key Laboratory of Vegetation Ecology, Ministry of Education, Changchun 130024, China.


Both atmospheric nitrogen (N) deposition and precipitation can strongly impact below-ground biogeochemical processes. Soil extracellular enzymes activities (EEAs) and microorganisms are considered as the key agents in ecosystem nutrient cycling. However, how the interaction between increasing N deposition and precipitation may affect soil EEAs and microbes remain poorly understood. In a 5-year field experiment in a meadow steppe in northern China, we tested the effects of N addition (N0, 0; N1, 5; N2, 10 g N m-2 yr-1) and increased precipitation (W0, ambient precipitation; W1, increase of 15% ambient precipitation; W2, increase of 30% ambient precipitation) on soil EEAs, microbial and chemical properties. Results showed that their interaction significantly affected all hydrolase activities, except for β-1,4-xylosidase (βX). Furthermore, increased precipitation and N addition interactively affected bacterial gene copies (P ≤ 0.05), and increased precipitation comparatively had a stronger effects. The results on the combination of N addition and increased precipitation showed that increased precipitation alleviated the positive effects of N addition on soil EEAs. This implies that the effects of either treatment alone on grassland biogeochemical processes may be alleviated by their simultaneous occurrence. Our results suggested that soil EEAs were mainly controlled by the content of N and phosphorus (P), and the ratio of C: N and C: P. Therefore, soil element content and stoichiometry could better explain the responses of EEAs to global changes. Moreover, soil microbial communities were mainly controlled by soil P content. Overall, our study highlights that the interaction between N deposition and precipitation may play a vital role in predicting the responses of soil enzyme activities to global changes in grassland ecosystems.

Keywords: Nitrogen deposition, Increased precipitation, Extracellular enzyme activity, Semi-arid grasslands, Alleviated effects.

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