Nutrient stoichiometric relations and biogeochemical niche in coexisting plant species: Effect of simulated climate change

Josep Peñuelas, Jordi Sardans, Romà Ogaya, Marc Estiarte

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    61 Citations (Scopus)


    Here we define a "biogeo-chemical niche" characterized by the species position in the multivariate space generated by its content not only of macronutrients like N, P or K, but also of micronutrients such as Mo, Mg and Ca, and trace toxic elements such as Pb and As. We then hypothesize that the flexibility of the species "biogeochemical niche" will influence the quality of plant tissue, which may have implications for herbivores, and will affect the species capacity to respond to disturbances and climate change and to adapt to the new climate conditions. We show with a simple multivariate procedure, a principal component analysis (PCA), first, that there is a strong differentiation in the total and relative (stoichiometry) content of the different elements in coexisting plant species, and, second, that there is species-specific plasticity in the response of this elemental composition to experimental climate change. The concentrations of foliar macro and micronutrients, as well as trace elements were measured in several tree species (Quercus ilex L, Phillyrea latifolia L. and Arbutus unedo L. in a Mediterranean broad leaf forest (Prades Mts) and in shrub species (Erica multiflora L, Globularia alypum L. and Doryc-nium pentaphyllum Scop.) in a Mediterranean shrubland (Garraf Mts) in control plants and in plants grown in experimental drought and warming plots. The climate conditions were monitored during the period 1999-2005. During this period, in the Prades experiment the drought plots had on average a soil moisture content 9% lower than the control plots, whereas in the Garraf experiment the drought treatment led to a mean reduction in soil moisture of 21% and the warming treatment to 0.9°C rise. The species with greater changes in biogeochemical niche under increased warming or drought, Arbutus unedo, Erica multiflora and Globularia alypum, were those that were also more affected in growth, photosynthetic capacity and other eco-physiological traits. The species differentiations indicate a strong biogeochemical niche, and that the changes in biogeochemical niche are probably an underlying factor in community structure shifts.
    Original languageEnglish
    Pages (from-to)613-622
    JournalPolish Journal of Ecology
    Issue number4
    Publication statusPublished - 1 Dec 2008


    • Biogeochemical niche
    • Climate change
    • Disturbance; elemental composition
    • Nutrients
    • Plant species coexistence
    • Stoichiometry


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