© 2018, Springer Nature Switzerland AG. Background and aims: Nitrogen (N) and phosphorus (P) are essential nutrients for plant growth, and their availability and stoichiometry play pivotal roles in trophic dynamics and community composition. The biogeochemical niche (BN) hypothesis claims that each species should have an optimal elemental composition and stoichiometry as a consequence of its optimal function in its specific ecological niche. Little attention, however, has been given to N and P stoichiometric patterns and test the BN hypothesis in coastal wetland communities from the perspective of organ and species-specific comparisons. Methods: We investigated factors responsible for changes in N and P stoichiometry patterns in different functional groups in coastal wetlands and tested the BN hypothesis by evaluating N and P composition in whole aboveground plants and organs. Results: Both plant N and P concentrations were high in coastal wetlands, indicating that N and P were not likely limiting, although the N:P ratio was slightly lower than the ratio reported in global and Chinese terrestrial flora. N and P concentrations and N:P ratios varied strongly between C3 and C4 species, among species, and among organs within species. N and P concentrations were not correlated with latitude, mean annual temperature and precipitation, although N:P ratio was weakly correlated with these factors. The differences in N and P concentrations and N:P ratios along the wetland gradients were mainly because of the species-specific community composition of each site. Conclusions: The results are consistent with the BN hypothesis. First, N and P composition is species-specific (homeostatic component of BN), each species tends to maintain its own composition even growing in different sites with different species composition. Second, different species, despite maintaining their own composition, have distinct degree of composition phenotypic flexibility (flexibility component of BN); this different size of “biogeochemical space” was observed when comparing different species living in the same community and the shifts in species BN space and size was observed when comparing populations of the same species living in different sites.
- Biogeochemical niche
- Coastal wetlands
- Eastern China
- Ecological stoichiometry
Hu, M., Peñuelas, J., Sardans, J., Sun, Z., Wilson, B. J., Huang, J., Zhu, Q., & Tong, C. (2018). Stoichiometry patterns of plant organ N and P in coastal herbaceous wetlands along the East China Sea: implications for biogeochemical niche. Plant and Soil, 431, 273-288. https://doi.org/10.1007/s11104-018-3759-6