Responses of community structure and diversity to nitrogen deposition and rainfall addition in contrasting steppes are ecosystem-dependent and dwarfed by year-to-year community dynamics

Xuejun Yang, Zhenying Huang, Ming Dong, Xuehua Ye, Guofang Liu, Dandan Hu, Indree Tuvshintogtokh, Tsogtsaikhan Tumenjargal, J. Hans C. Cornelissen

Research output: Contribution to JournalArticle


BACKGROUND AND AIMS: Long-term studies to disentangle the multiple, simultaneous effects of global change on community dynamics are a high research priority to forecast future distribution of diversity. Seldom are such multiple effects of global change studied across different ecosystems. METHODS: Here we manipulated nitrogen deposition and rainfall at levels realistic for future environmental scenarios in three contrasting steppe types in Mongolia and followed community dynamics for 7 years. KEY RESULTS: Redundancy analyses showed that community composition varied significantly among years. Rainfall and nitrogen manipulations did have some significant effects, but these effects were dependent on the type of response and varied between ecosystems. Community compositions of desert and meadow steppes, but not that of typical steppe, responded significantly to rainfall addition. Only community composition of meadow steppe responded significantly to nitrogen deposition. Species richness in desert steppe responded significantly to rainfall addition, but the other two steppes did not. Typical steppe showed significant negative response of species richness to nitrogen deposition, but the other two steppes did not. There were significant interactions between year and nitrogen deposition in desert steppe and between year and rainfall addition in typical steppe, suggesting that the effect of the treatments depends on the particular year considered. CONCLUSIONS: Our multi-year experiment thus suggests that responses of community structure and diversity to global change drivers are ecosystem-dependent and that their responses to experimental treatments are dwarfed by the year-to-year community dynamics. Therefore, our results point to the importance of taking annual environmental variability into account for understanding and predicting the specific responses of different ecosystems to multiple global change drivers.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)461-469
Number of pages9
JournalAnnals of Botany
Issue number3
Early online date21 Jun 2019
Publication statusPublished - 16 Aug 2019



  • Abundance
  • community composition
  • global change ecology
  • interannual variation of weather
  • N deposition
  • precipitation
  • species richness

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