A meta-analysis highlights globally widespread potassium limitation in terrestrial ecosystems

Baozhang Chen, Jingchun Fang, Shilong Piao, Philippe Ciais, Thomas Andrew Black, Fei Wang, Shuli Niu, Zhenzhong Zeng, Yiqi Luo

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

7 Scopus citations


Potassium (K+) is the most abundant inorganic cation in plant cells, playing a critical role in various plant functions. However, the impacts of K on natural terrestrial ecosystems have been less studied compared with nitrogen (N) and phosphorus (P). Here, we present a global meta-analysis aimed at quantifying the response of aboveground production to K addition. This analysis is based on 144 field K fertilization experiments. We also investigate the influences of climate, soil properties, ecosystem types, and fertilizer regimes on the responses of aboveground production. We find that: K addition significantly increases aboveground production by 12.3% (95% CI: 7.4–17.5%), suggesting a widespread occurrence of K limitation across terrestrial ecosystems; K limitation is more prominent in regions with humid climates, acidic soils, or weathered soils; the effect size of K addition varies among climate zones/regions, and is influenced by multiple factors; and previous N : K and K : P thresholds utilized to detect K limitation in wetlands cannot be applied to other biomes. Our findings emphasize the role of K in limiting terrestrial productivity, which should be integrated into future terrestrial ecosystems models.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)154-165
Number of pages12
JournalNew Phytologist
Issue number1
StatePublished - Jan 2024
Externally publishedYes


  • aboveground production
  • meta-analysis
  • potassium fertilization
  • potassium limitation
  • terrestrial ecosystems

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Physiology
  • Plant Science


Dive into the research topics of 'A meta-analysis highlights globally widespread potassium limitation in terrestrial ecosystems'. Together they form a unique fingerprint.

Cite this