Climate and taxonomy underlie different elemental concentrations and stoichiometries of forest species: The optimum "biogeochemical niche"

J. Sardans, J. Peñuelas

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    44 Citations (Scopus)


    We previously hypothesised the existence of a "biogeochemical niche" occupied by each plant species. Different species should have a specific elemental composition, stoichiometry and allocation as a consequence of their particular metabolism, physiology and structure (morphology) linked to their optimal functioning under the environmental (abiotic and biotic) conditions where they have evolved. We tested this hypothesis using data from the Catalan Forestry Inventory that covers different forest groups growing under a large climatic gradient. Mediterranean species that occupy hotter-drier environments have lower leaf N, P and K concentrations than non-Mediterranean forest species. Within a determined climatic biome, different species competing in the same space have different elemental compositions and allocations linked to their taxonomical differences and their phenotypic plasticity. Gymnosperms have a proportionally higher elemental allocation to leaves than to wood, higher C concentrations, and lower N, P and K concentrations mainly in the stem and branches than angiosperms. The differences among species are linked to asymmetrical use of different elements, suggesting that the biogeochemical niche is a final expression and consequence of long-term species adaptation to particular abiotic factors, ecological role (stress tolerant, ruderal, competitor), different soil occupations and use of resources to avoid interspecific competition, and finally of a certain degree of flexibility to adapt to current environmental shifts. © 2014 Springer Science+Business Media Dordrecht.
    Original languageEnglish
    Pages (from-to)441-455
    JournalPlant Ecology
    Issue number4
    Publication statusPublished - 1 Jan 2014


    • Biogeochemical niche
    • C:N
    • Mediterranean
    • N:P
    • Nutrients
    • Phosphorus
    • Potassium


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