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Changes in water and nitrogen (N) availability due to climate change and atmospheric N deposition could have significant effects on soil respiration, a major pathway of carbon (C) loss from terrestrial ecosystems. A manipulative experiment simulating increased precipitation and atmospheric N deposition has been conducted for 9 years (2005–2013) in a semiarid grassland in Mongolian Plateau, China. Increased precipitation and N addition interactively affect soil respiration through the 9 years. The interactions demonstrated that N addition weakened the precipitation-induced stimulation of soil respiration, whereas increased precipitation exacerbated the negative impacts of N addition. The main effects of increased precipitation and N addition treatment on soil respiration were 15.8% stimulated and 14.2% suppressed, respectively. Moreover, a declining pattern and 2-year oscillation were observed for soil respiration response to N addition under increased precipitation. The dependence of soil respiration upon gross primary productivity and soil moisture, but not soil temperature, suggests that resources C substrate supply and water availability are more important than temperature in regulating interannual variations of soil C release in semiarid grassland ecosystems. The findings indicate that atmospheric N deposition may have the potential to mitigate soil C loss induced by increased precipitation, and highlight that long-term and multi-factor global change studies are critical for predicting the general patterns of terrestrial C cycling in response to global change in the future.

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