Shifts in plant nutrient use strategies under secondary forest succession

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Courtesy of Springer


In evergreen broad-leaved forests (EBLFs) in Tiantong National Forest Park, Eastern China, we studied the soil chemistry and plant leaf nutrient concentration along a chronosequence of secondary forest succession. Soil total N, P and leaf N, P concentration of the most abundant plant species increased with forest succession. We further examined leaf lifespan, leaf nutrient characteristics and root–shoot attributes of Pinus massoniana Lamb, the early-successional species, Schima superba Gardn. et Champ, the mid-successional species, and Castanopsis fargesii Franch, the late-successional species. These species showed both intraspecific and interspecific variability along succession. Leaf N concentration of the three dominant species increased while N resorption tended to decrease with succession; leaf P and P resorption didn’t show a consistent trend along forest succession. Compared with the other two species, C. fargesii had the shortest leaf lifespan, largest decay rate and the highest taproot diameter to shoot base diameter ratio while P. massoniana had the highest root–shoot biomass ratio and taproot length to shoot height ratio. Overall, P. massoniana used ‘conservative consumption’ nutrient use strategy in the infertile soil conditions while C. fargesii took up nutrients in the way of ‘resource spending’ when nutrient supply increased. The attributes of S. superba were intermediate between the other two species, which may contribute to its coexistence with other species in a wide range of soil conditions.

Keywords:  Evergreen broad-leaved forests - Leaf lifespan  - Nutrient resorption - Nutrient use strategies - Root /shoot ratios - Soil nutrients

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