Warming alters competition for organic and inorganic nitrogen between co-existing grassland plant species

Thomas M. Kuster, Anna Wilkinson, Paul W. Hill, Davey L. Jones, Richard D. Bardgett

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

12 Citations (Scopus)


Introduction: Grass species may acquire different forms of nitrogen (N) to reduce competition for the same resources. Climate change influences the availability of soil N and is therefore likely to cause shifts in N forms acquired by plants, thereby affecting their competitive interactions. Methods: We investigated the effects of warming on the uptake of different N forms and competitive interactions of Festuca ovina and Anthoxanthum odoratum in a pot experiment. The plants were grown either in monocultures or mixture, and at ambient or elevated temperature (+10 °C), and supplied with 13C and 15N isotopes to test for treatment effects on the relative uptake of ammonium, alanine or tri-alanine. Results: Both grass species took up relatively more N supplied as ammonium than as alanine or tri-alanine when grown under ambient conditions in monoculture. In contrast, when grown in mixtures, F. ovina took up the three supplied N forms in equal amounts, whereas A. odoratum switched to tri-alanine as the main N form. Under warmed conditions, both species took up the N forms equally, irrespective of competition treatments. Conclusions: We have shown that grass species grown in mixture and under ambient conditions reduce competition by acquiring different N forms. Warming increased the availability of inorganic N in the soil and therefore deregulated the need for differential uptake of N forms.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)117-129
Number of pages13
JournalPlant and Soil
Issue number1-2
Publication statusPublished - 1 Sep 2016
Externally publishedYes


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