Annals of Botany

Nutrient foraging linked to population growth in understory shrubs

Temperate forests have experienced surges in nitrogen supply since pre-industrial times, together with understory disruptions such as invasions and declines of formerly abundant species. Caplan et al. suggest that there may be a mechanistic link between these shifts, and show that rates of biomass production and population growth in forest shrubs are associated with nutrient foraging strategies.

Distributions of fine root diameter, computed on the basis of length, for the species included in the study
Distributions of fine root diameter, computed on the basis of length, for the species included in the study. Curves depict log-normal distributions whose parameters are the mean (± s.e.) of the fitted parameter estimates across individuals of the species.

Species with root traits indicative of acquisitive foraging tend to exhibit more rapid growth at both scales, whereas more nutrient conservative species have slower growth. The authors suggest that nutrient enrichment imposes an ecological filter on understory shrubs that acts in concert with other processes to shape forest community composition.

Reference

Caplan, J. S., Stone, B. W. G., Faillace, C. A., Lafond, J. J., Baumgarten, J. M., Mozdzer, T. J., … Ehrenfeld, J. G. (2017). Nutrient foraging strategies are associated with productivity and population growth in forest shrubs. Annals of Botany, mcw271. https://doi.org/10.1093/aob/mcw271

About the author

Annals of Botany Office

The Annals of Botany Office is based at the University of Oxford.

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