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Effects of temperature and fertilization on nitrogen cycling and community composition of an urban lawn

  • Author(s): BIJOOR, NEETAS
  • CZIMCZIK, CLAUDIAI
  • PATAKI, DIANEE
  • BILLINGS, SHARONA
  • et al.
Abstract

We examined the influence of temperature and management practices on the nitrogen (N) cycling of turfgrass, the largest irrigated crop in the United States. We measured nitrous oxide (N₂O) fluxes, and plant and soil N content and isotopic composition with a manipulative experiment of temperature and fertilizer application. Infrared lamps were used to increase surface temperature by 3.5±1.3 °C on average and control and heated plots were split into high and low fertilizer treatments. The N₂O fluxes increased following fertilizer application and were also directly related to soil moisture. There was a positive effect of warming on N₂O fluxes. Soils in the heated plots were enriched in nitrogen isotope ratio (δ¹⁵N) relative to control plots, consistent with greater gaseous losses of N. For all treatments, C₄ plant C/N ratio was negatively correlated with plant δ¹⁵N, suggesting that low leaf N was associated with the use of isotopically depleted N sources such as mineralized organic matter. A significant and unexpected result was a large, rapid increase in the proportion of C₄ plants in the heated plots relative to control plots, as measured by the carbon isotope ratio (δ¹³C) of total harvested aboveground biomass. The C₄ plant biomass was dominated by crabgrass, a common weed in C₃ fescue lawns. Our results suggest that an increase in temperature caused by climate change as well as the urban heat island effect may result in increases in N₂O emissions from fertilized urban lawns. In addition, warming may exacerbate weed invasions, which may require more intensive management, e.g. herbicide application, to manage species composition.

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