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Shifts in plant community structure in shrub and grass-dominated ecosystems are occurring over large land areas in the western US. It is not clear what effect this vegetative change will have on rates of carbon and nitrogen cycling, and thus long-term ecosystem productivity. To study the effect of different plant species on the decomposability of soil organic substrates and rates of C- and N-cycling, we conducted laboratory incubations of soils from a 15-yr-old experimental plot where big sagebrush (Artemisia tridentata Nutt.) and crested wheatgrass (Agropyron desertorum [Fisch.] Schult.) plants had been planted in a grid pattern. Soil samples collected from beneath crested wheatgrass had significantly greater total...