Interactions between climate warming and land management regulate greenhouse gas fluxes in a temperate grassland ecosystem

Barneze, Arlete S.; Whitaker, Jeanette; McNamara, Niall P.; Ostle, Nicholas J.


Greenhouse gas (GHG) fluxes from grasslands are affected by climate warming and agricultural management practices including nitrogen (N) fertiliser application and grazing. However, the interactive effects of these factors are poorly resolved in field studies. We used a factorial in situ experiment - combining warming, N-fertiliser and above-ground cutting treatments - to explore their individual and interactive effects on plant-soil properties and GHG fluxes in a temperate UK grassland over two years. Our results showed no interactive treatment effects on plant productivity despite individual effects of N-fertiliser and warming on above- and below-ground biomass. There were, however, interactive treatment effects on GHG fluxes that varied across the two years. In year 1, warming and N-fertiliser increased CO2 and reduced N2O fluxes. N-fertilised also interacted with above-ground biomass (AGB) removal increasing N2O fluxes in year one and reducing CO2 fluxes in year two. The grassland was consistently a sink of CH4; N-fertilised increased the sink by 45% (year 1), AGB removal and warming reduced CH4 consumption by 44% and 43%, respectively (year 2). The majority of the variance in CO2 fluxes was explained by above-ground metrics (grassland productivity and leaf dry matter content), with microclimate (air and soil temperature and soil moisture) and below-ground (root N content) metrics also significant. Soil chemistry (soil mineral N and net mineralisation rate), below-ground (specific root length) and microclimate (soil moisture) metrics explained 49% and 24% of the variance in N2O and CH4 fluxes, respectively. Overall, our work demonstrates the importance of interactions between climate and management as determinants of short-term grassland GHG fluxes. These results show that reduced cutting combined with lower inorganic N-fertilisers would constrain grassland C and N cycling and GHG fluxes in warmer climatic conditions. This has implications for strategic grassland management decisions to mitigate GHG fluxes in a warming world.