Constraints of nutrient availability on primary production in two alpine tundra communities

Bowman, William D., Theodose, Theresa A., Schardt, James C., & Conant, Richard T. (1993) Constraints of nutrient availability on primary production in two alpine tundra communities. Ecology, 74(7), pp. 2085-2097.

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A nutrient amendment experiment was conducted for two growing seasons in two alpine tundra communities to test the hypotheses that: (1) primary production is limited by nutrient availability, and (2) physiological and developmental constraints act to limit the responses of plants from a nutrient-poor community more than plants from a more nutrient-rich community to increases in nutrient availability. Experimental treatments consisted of N, P, and N+P amendments applied to plots in two physiognomically similar communities, dry and wet meadows. Extractable N and P from soils in nonfertilized control plots indicated that the wet meadow had higher N and P availability. Photosynthetic, nutrient uptake, and growth responses of the dominants in the two communities showed little difference in the relative capacity of these plants to respond to the nutrient additions. Aboveground production responses of the communities to the treatments indicated N availability was limiting to production in the dry meadow community while N and P availability colimited production in the wet meadow community. There was a greater production response to the N and N+P amendments in the dry meadow relative to the wet meadow, despite equivalent functional responses of the dominant species of both communities. The greater production response in the dry meadow was in part related to changes in community structure, with an increase in the proportion of graminoid and forb biomass, and a decrease in the proportion of community biomass made up by the dominant sedge Kobresia myosuroides. Species richness increased significantly in response to the N+P treatment in the dry meadow. Graminoid biomass increased significantly in the wet meadow N and N+P plots, while forb biomass decreased significantly, suggesting a competitive interaction for light. Thus, the difference in community response to nutrient amendments was not the result of functional changes at the leaf level of the dominant species, but rather was related to changes in community structure in the dry meadow, and to a shift from a nutrient to a light limitation of production in the wet meadow.

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ID Code: 37793
Item Type: Journal Article
Refereed: Yes
DOI: 10.2307/1940854
ISSN: 0012-9658
Subjects: Australian and New Zealand Standard Research Classification > BIOLOGICAL SCIENCES (060000) > ECOLOGY (060200)
Divisions: Current > Schools > School of Earth, Environmental & Biological Sciences
Past > Institutes > Institute for Sustainable Resources
Current > QUT Faculties and Divisions > Science & Engineering Faculty
Copyright Owner: Copyright 1993 Ecological Society of America
Deposited On: 07 Oct 2010 05:21
Last Modified: 11 Dec 2013 04:59

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