Effects of Nitrogen Fertilization on Litter and Soil Decomposition
Experiment Id

The influence of inorganic nitrogen (N) inputs on decomposition is poorly understood. Some prior studies suggest that N may reduce the decomposition of substrates with high concentrations of lignin via inhibitory effects on the activity of lignin-degrading enzymes, although such inhibition has not always been demonstrated. The original purpose of E145 was to study the effects of nitrogen (N) addition on decomposition of seven plant substrates ranging in initial lignin concentrations (from 7.4 - 25.6%) over five years in eight different grassland and forest sites in central Minnesota. In 2020, four fungal substrates ranging in melanin concentration (a recalcitrant molecule in fungal cell walls similar to lignin) were added to four of the forested sites, with harvests to assess mass loss and remaining necromass chemistry occurring at subsequential intervals over a five-year period.

Experiment Design

from: Hobbie, S. E. (2005) Contrasting effects of substrate and fertilizer nitrogen on the early stages of litter decomposition. Ecosystems, 8(6), 644-656. doi:10.1007/s10021-003-0110-7

Plot Description

Plots are 2.5 x 2.5m, located in each of 8 sites defined by dominant plant cover. Sites and plots were established in 1999. Within each site, each of twelve 2.5 m x 2.5 m plots received either a control treatment (water only) or a fertilization treatment consisting of 10g N/m2/yr of aqueous NH4NO3 (n = 6) in three applications per year starting in 1999.


Half (six) of the plots in each site are fertilized 3 times/ yr (May, July, October) with aqueous NH4NO3 to receive an annual total of 100 kg N/ha y


View data in the Data Catalog

Select Publications

Experimental nitrogen fertilization globally accelerates, then slows decomposition of leaf litter
AL Gill, J Schilling, SE Hobbie
2021 Ecology Letters 24 (4), 802-811

A cross-system analysis of litter chemical dynamics throughout decomposition
BA Ball, LM Christenson, KG Wickings
2022 Ecosystems 25 (8), 1792-1808

Long-term nitrogen addition does not increase soil carbon storage or cycling across eight temperate forest and grassland sites on a sandy outwash plain
CE Kazanski, CE Riggs, PB Reich, SE Hobbie
2019 Ecosystems 22, 1592-1605