Increasing atmospheric nitrogen (N) deposition could profoundly impact community structure and ecosystem functions in forests. However, conventional experiments with understory addition of N (UAN) largely neglect canopy-associated biota and processes and therefore may not realistically simulate atmospheric N deposition to generate reliable impacts on forest ecosystems. Here we, for the first time, designed a novel experiment with canopy addition of N (CAN) vs. UAN and reviewed the merits and pitfalls of the two approaches. The following hypotheses will be tested: i) UAN overestimates the N addition effects on understory and soil processes but underestimates those on canopy-associated biota and processes, ii) with low-level N addition, CAN favors canopy tree species and canopy-dwelling biota and promotes the detritus food web, and iii) with high-level N addition, CAN suppresses canopy tree species and other biota and favors rhizosphere food web. As a long-term comprehensive program, this experiment will provide opportunities for multidisciplinary collaborations, including biogeochemistry, microbiology, zoology, and plant science to examine forest ecosystem responses to atmospheric N deposition.
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