Tissue nutrient signatures predict herbaceous-wetland community responses to nutrient availability



Willby N, Pulford ID & Flowers TH (2001) Tissue nutrient signatures predict herbaceous-wetland community responses to nutrient availability. New Phytologist, 152 (3), pp. 463-481.

- An extensive survey of European wetlands was undertaken to compare the importance of growing conditions vs functional characteristics of vegetation in determining N, P and K contents. - Stress-tolerator dominated stands (S) had consistently lower nutrient contents and higher N : P ratios whereas ruderal-dominated (R) stands displayed the opposite pattern. Competitor (C) and competitor-stress tolerator (CS) stands were intermediate to R and S. - These patterns were mostly preserved after removing covariation between vegetation and environment, thus indicating constitutional differences in nutrient signatures between functionally differentiated vegetation. C and R stands were least likely to be nutrient limited. Half of the S stands were probably P-limited but C, CS and R stands rarely or never experienced P limitation. Inferred colimitation by K was twice as frequent in S stands compared with other vegetation. - This study extends the evidence for syndromes of traits closely linked to nutrient use efficiency that increase fitness under particular growing conditions. It also highlights patterns at a community level across a wide range of wetland types and suggests that tissue nutrient signatures will have diagnostic value in predicting community responses to perturbation in nutrient availability.

nutrients; wetlands; functional ecology; plant traits; growth strategies

New Phytologist: Volume 152, Issue 3

Publication date31/12/2001

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Professor Nigel Willby
Professor Nigel Willby

Professor & Associate Dean of Research, Biological and Environmental Sciences