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Long-term simulated nitrogen deposition alters the plant cover dynamics of a Mediterranean rosemary shrubland in Central Spain through defoliation

AuthorsCabal, Ciro; Ochoa-Hueso, Raúl; Pérez-Corona, Esther; Manrique, Esteban
Long-term nutrient addition
Shrub cover
Semiarid shrublands
Phosphorus Leaf
Mediterranean ecosystems
Nitrogen deposition
Issue DateDec-2017
CitationEnvironmental Science and Pollution Research 24(34): 26227-26237 (2017)
AbstractNitrogen (N) deposition due to anthropogenic pollution is a major driver of the global biodiversity loss. We studied the effect of experimental N and phosphorus (P) fertilization (0, 10, 20, and 50 kg N ha¿1 year¿1 and 14 kg P ha¿1 year¿1 over the background deposition levels) on plant cover dynamics of a rosemary (Rosmarinus officinalis L.) shrubland after 8 years of nutrient addition in a semiarid Mediterranean ecosystem from Central Spain. We specifically aimed at testing whether N deposition has the potential to influence the observed expanding trend of woody vegetation into areas dominated by grassland, biological soil crusts, and bare soil. Our results show that N addition loads above 10 kg N ha¿1 year¿1 reverted the cover dynamics of shrubs. Under N addition conditions, N was no longer a limiting nutrient and other elements, especially P and calcium, determined the seasonal growth of young twigs. Interestingly, N fertilization did not inhibit the growth of young shoots; our estimates point to a reduced rosemary leaf lifespan that is driving individuals to death. This may be triggered by long-term accumulation of N compounds in leaves, suggesting the need to consider the old organs and tissues in long-lived perennial plants, where N toxicity effects could be more mediated by accumulation processes. Shrublands are a widely distributed ecosystem type in biodiverse Mediterranean landscapes, where shrubs play a key role as nurse plants. Therefore, the disappearance of shrublands may accelerate the biodiversity loss associated with other global change drivers, hamper the recruitment of seedlings of woody species, and, as a consequence, accelerate desertification.
Identifiersdoi: 10.1007/s11356-017-8879-7
issn: 0944-1344
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