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Stoichiometric response of shrubs and mosses to long-term nutrient (N, P and K) addition in an ombrotrophic peatland

Wang, M., T. Larmola, M. T. Murphy, T. R. Moore and J. L. Bubier. 2015. Springer International Publishing

Abstract

Background: and aim Although ombrotrophic peatlands are nutrient deficient, it is not clear to what extent plants will respond to changes in nutrient availability. Methods: We examined the changes in foliar stoichiometry and species abundance of four shrub species and moss after a decade of nitrogen (N), phosphorus (P) and potassium (K) fertilization at the Mer Bleue bog, eastern Canada. Results: Shrub abundance increased and moss cover decreased after fertilization with 6.4, 5 and 6.3 g m-2 yr-1 of N, P and K, respectively; foliar concentrations of N, P, K and calcium (Ca) and magnesium (Mg) were affected. Stoichiometry showed mainly N limitation after P and K fertilization and P (co)limitation after high levels of N addition in shrubs; moss showed consistent K or KN-co-limitation, even with PK and NPK additions. Shrubs exhibited the strongest homeostasis (the maintenance of an organism's tissue chemical composition with changes in environmental resources) to N, with the homeostatic regulation coefficient (H)>9.7, compared to 1.4 in moss. For P and K, shrubs showed weaker homeostasis than N, while moss had a stronger homeostasis. Conclusions The strong homeostasis of shrubs may be an adaptive strategy to limited availability of soil N and P.

Key Words

Stoichiometry, Homeostasis, Chamaedaphne calyculata, Sphagnum moss, Kalmia angustifolia, Rhododendron groenlandicum, Vaccinium myrtilloides