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Research article2021Peer reviewedOpen access

Effects of nitrogen addition and mowing on nitrogen- and water-use efficiency of Artemisia frigida in a grassland restored from an abandoned cropland

Diao, Huajie; Kardol, Paul; Dong, Kuanhu; Wang, Changhui


Aims Competition among plants in a community usually depends on their nitrogen (N)-use efficiency (NUE) and water-use efficiency (WUE) in arid and semi-arid regions. Artemisia frigida is an indicator species in heavily degraded grassland, however, how its NUE and WUE respond to N addition in different successional stages is still unclear, especially with mowing, a common management practice in semi-arid grasslands.Methods Based on a long-term controlled experiment with N addition and mowing in an abandoned cropland from 2006 to 2013, we investigated the NUE and WUE of A. frigida in two patches (i.e. grass and herb patches) in 2013 which represented two potential successional stages from herb to grass communities. The coverage of A. frigida was higher (about 50%) in the herb patch than in the grass patch (about 10%). Stable isotopic C (delta C-13) and N (delta N-15) as well as C and N pools were measured in plants and soils. NUE was calculated as leaf C/N, and leaf delta C-13 values were used as a proxy for WUE.Important Findings N addition did not affect WUE of A. frigida, but significantly decreased NUE by 42.9% and 26.6% in grass and herb patches, respectively. The response of NUE to N addition was related to altering utilization of different N sources (NH4+ vs. NO3-) by A. frigida according to the changed relationship between leaf delta N-15/soil delta N-15 and NUE. Mowing had no effect on NUE regardless of N addition, but significantly increased WUE by 2.3% for A. frigida without N addition in the grass patch. The addition of N reduced the positive effect of mowing on its WUE in grass patch. Our results suggested that decreased NUE and/or WUE of A. frigida under mowing and N addition could reduce its competition, and further accelerate restoration succession from the abandoned cropland to natural grassland in the semi-arid region.


mowing; nitrogen addition; nitrogen-use efficiency; semi-arid grassland; water-use efficiency

Published in

Journal of Plant Ecology
2021, Volume: 14, number: 3, pages: 515-526

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