Nitrogen (N) and phosphorus (P) limitation constrains the magnitude of terrestrial carbon uptake in response to elevated carbon dioxide and climate change. However, global maps of nutrient limitation are still lacking. Here we examined global N and P limitation using the ratio of site-averaged leaf N and P resorption efficiencies of the dominant species across 171 sites. We evaluated our predictions using a global database of N- and P-limitation experiments based on nutrient additions at 106 and 53 sites, respectively. Globally, we found a shift from relative P to N limitation for both higher latitudes and precipitation seasonality and lower mean annual temperature, temperature seasonality, mean annual precipitation and soil clay fraction. Excluding cropland, urban and glacial areas, we estimate that 18% of the natural terrestrial land area is significantly limited by N, whereas 43% is relatively P limited. The remaining 39% of the natural terrestrial land area could be co-limited by N and P or weakly limited by either nutrient alone. This work provides both a new framework for testing nutrient limitation and a benchmark of N and P limitation for models to constrain predictions of the terrestrial carbon sink.
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All data supporting the findings of this study are available in figshare (https://doi.org/10.6084/m9.figshare.10735652.v1).
The code used in this work can be accessed by contacting the corresponding authors.
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This work was supported by the National Natural Science Foundation of China (41877328, 41630750 and 31400381), Fok Ying-Tong Education Foundation (161015) and Project of State Key Laboratory of Earth Surface and Resource Ecology of Beijing Normal University (2017-ZY-07). C.T. was supported by a Lawrence Fellow award through the Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory (LLNL), by the US Department of Energy (grant no. DE-AC52-07NA27344) and by the LLNL-LDRD Program (grant no. 20-ERD-055). We are grateful to J. Tan, J. S. Fu and F. Dentener for providing data on the global N deposition. We thank P. Vitousek for his useful comments on an earlier version of the manuscript and Stanford University for its visiting scholars program.
The authors declare no competing interests.
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Du, E., Terrer, C., Pellegrini, A.F.A. et al. Global patterns of terrestrial nitrogen and phosphorus limitation. Nat. Geosci. 13, 221–226 (2020). https://doi.org/10.1038/s41561-019-0530-4
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