Articles | Volume 9, issue 1
Research article
11 Jan 2012
Research article |  | 11 Jan 2012

The strength of the biotic compartment in retaining nitrogen additions prevents nitrogen losses from a Mediterranean maquis

T. Dias, M. A. Martins-Loução, L. Sheppard, and C. Cruz

Abstract. Nitrogen (N) is one of the nutrients most limiting to ecosystem productivity. However, N availability is increasing globally, which may affect ecosystem functions and stability. To understand the role of each ecosystem compartment in the cycling of increased N, we studied the initial response of a nutrient-poor ecosystem, a Mediterranean maquis, to increased N deposition. N availability (dose and form) was modified by three N additions over the year (middle autumn/winter, spring and summer). Soil inorganic N pools (nitrate in particular) strongly reflected the N additions in autumn, almost matching the total N added over the three additions. Cistus ladanifer, the dominant plant species, responded to the increased N (cover and N concentration in leaves and litter). Given that leaf shedding occurs in the summer, the importance of this N pool returning to the soil through litter decomposition on the total soil inorganic N in autumn was investigated. Data suggest that living plants and litter have a crucial role in preventing N losses from Mediterranean maquis. This is the first integrated field study on how European Mediterranean ecosystems retain increased N of different forms and doses, however longer-term studies are needed to explore the generality of this study's observations.

Final-revised paper