This data set contains measurements of total nitrogen from the main experiment plots of a large grassland biodiversity experiment (the Jena Experiment; see further details below). In the main experiment, 82 grassland plots of 20 x 20 m were established from a pool of 60 species belonging to four functional groups (grasses, legumes, tall and small herbs). In May 2002, varying numbers of plant species from this species pool were sown into the plots to create a gradient of plant species richness (1, 2, 4, 8, 16 and 60 species) and functional richness (1, 2, 3, 4 functional groups). Plots were maintained by bi-annual weeding and mowing. Soil sampling and analysis: Stratified soil sampling was performed before sowing in April 2002. Five independent samples per plot were taken using a split tube sampler with an inner diameter of 4.8 cm (Eijkelkamp Agrisearch Equipment, Giesbeek, the Netherlands). Soil samples were dried at 40°C and then segmented to a depth resolution of 5 cm giving six depth subsamples per core. All samples were analyzed independently and averaged values per depth layer are reported. Sampling locations were less than 30 cm apart from sampling locations in other years. Subsequently, samples were dried at 40°C. All soil samples were passed through a sieve with a mesh size of 2 mm. Rarely present visible plant remains were removed using tweezers. Total nitrogen concentration was analyzed on ball-milled subsamples (time 4 min, frequency 30 s-1) by an elemental analyzer at 1150°C (Elementaranalysator vario Max CN; Elementar Analysensysteme GmbH, Hanau, Germany).