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Phylogeny is a powerful tool for predicting plant biomass responses to nitrogen enrichment


Wooliver, RC and Marion, ZH and Peterson, CR and Potts, BM and Senior, J and Bailey, JK and Schweitzer, JA, Phylogeny is a powerful tool for predicting plant biomass responses to nitrogen enrichment, Ecology, 98, (8) pp. 2120-2132. ISSN 0012-9658 (2017) [Refereed Article]


Copyright Statement

Copyright 2017 by the Ecological Society of America

DOI: doi:10.1002/ecy.1896


Increasing rates of anthropogenic nitrogen (N) enrichment to soils often lead to the dominance of nitrophilic plant species and reduce plant diversity in natural ecosystems. Yet, we lack a framework to predict which species will be winners or losers in soil N enrichment scenarios, a framework that current literature suggests should integrate plant phylogeny, functional tradeoffs, and nutrient co-limitation. Using a controlled fertilization experiment, we quantified biomass responses to N enrichment for 23 forest tree species within the genus Eucalyptus that are native to Tasmania, Australia. Based on previous work with these species' responses to global change factors and theory on the evolution of plant resource-use strategies, we hypothesized that (1) growth responses to N enrichment are phylogenetically structured, (2) species with more resource-acquisitive functional traits have greater growth responses to N enrichment, and (3) phosphorus (P) limits growth responses to N enrichment differentially across species, wherein P enrichment increases growth responses to N enrichment more in some species than others. We built a hierarchical Bayesian model estimating effects of functional traits (specific leaf area, specific stem density, and specific root length) and P fertilization on species' biomass responses to N, which we then compared between lineages to determine whether phylogeny explains variation in responses to N. In concordance with literature on N limitation, a majority of species responded strongly and positively to N enrichment. Mean responses ranged three-fold, from 6.21 (E. pulchella) to 16.87 (E. delegatensis) percent increases in biomass per g N·m−2·yr−1 added. We identified a strong difference in responses to N between two phylogenetic lineages in the Eucalyptus subgenus Symphyomyrtus, suggesting that shared ancestry explains variation in N limitation. However, our model indicated that after controlling for phylogenetic non-independence, eucalypt responses to N were not associated with functional traits (although post-hoc analyses show a phylogenetic pattern in specific root length similar to that of responses to N), nor were responses differentially limited by P. Overall, our model results suggest that phylogeny is a powerful predictor of winners and losers in anthropogenic N enrichm

Item Details

Item Type:Refereed Article
Keywords:biomass, Eucalyptus, evolutionary history, functional traits, global change, hierarchical Bayesian model, nitrogen enrichment, nutrient co-limitation, phosphorus, phylogeny, plant economics spectrum, resource-use tradeoff
Research Division:Biological Sciences
Research Group:Genetics
Research Field:Genetics not elsewhere classified
Objective Division:Plant Production and Plant Primary Products
Objective Group:Forestry
Objective Field:Hardwood plantations
UTAS Author:Potts, BM (Professor Brad Potts)
UTAS Author:Senior, J (Mr John Senior)
ID Code:120296
Year Published:2017
Web of Science® Times Cited:10
Deposited By:Plant Science
Deposited On:2017-08-20
Last Modified:2018-05-07
Downloads:146 View Download Statistics

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