Nutrient effects on stand structure, resorption efficiency, and secondary compounds in Everglades sawgrass
Long-term studies along a 30-yr nutrient-enrichment gradient in the northern part of the subtropical Everglades fen allowed us to assess the effects of nitrogen (N) and phosphorus (P) additions on plant community structure and chemical qualities of wetland plants. Areas in the highest P-enriched zones (>1000 mgP/kg), once dominated by open-water sloughs and surrounding monocultures of sawgrass (Cladium jamaicense, a stress-tolerant low-nutrient-status species), are now dominated by cattail (Typha domingensis, a competitive, high-nutrient-status species). Areas of moderate (750-500 mg/kg) and low (<500 mg/kg) P soil concentrations have maintained their original plant composition. Analysis of nutrient-use efficiency indicates that sawgrass is highly efficient in nutrient resorption and nutrient proficiency, but this efficiency decreases at high soil P concentrations. Both indices indicate that suboptimal concentrations of P, which limit growth and optimize retention of P within the plant, exist in the Everglades. This information, when coupled with the low levels of P found in the plants, soil, and pore water of the unenriched portions of the Everglades, indicates that this ecosystem is extremely P limited. High molar N:P leaf ratios suggested P limitations for sawgrass at unenriched sites, but not in highly enriched areas. Intermediate P loadings resulted in either N or P limitations. Increased leaf P concentrations correspond to decreased phenolic content of sawgrass leaves, suggesting that this species' metabolic growth response follows the carbon-nutrient balance hypothesis of decreased production of phenolics with increased nutrient supply. Concomitant with decreased foliar phenolic content at high P enrichment was an increase in herbivory and fungal infections.
Richardson, CJ; Ferrell, GM; Vaithiyanathan, P
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