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  • Volume 7 Issue 3
    Andropogon gerardii is a long-lived grass that is dominant in central US mesic grasslands but has a widespread distribution. As climate changes, this and other broadly distributed dominant grasses will face environmental change where they are currently dominant as well as where they are now rare. A paper in this issue by Giuliani et al. examines how different populations of two dominant grasses vary in their responses to climate change. Photo taken by Amanda Giuliani.
    Research Articles
    Amanda L. Giuliani, Eugene F. Kelly, Alan K. Knapp
    2014, 7 (3): 211-221.
    Abstract ( 50 )   PDF   Save
    Aims The rate of climate change may exceed many plant species' migration rates, particularly for long-lived perennial species that dominate most ecosystems. If bioclimatic envelopes shift more rapidly than dominant species can migrate, individuals located peripheral to biomes or in adjacent biomes may become a significant source of traits for future dominant populations (DPs). Thus, traits of individuals from peripheral populations (PPs) may affect future ecosystem functioning more than those of today's DPs.
    Methods We assessed key traits of individuals collected from populations that currently dominate two central US grasslands, the shortgrass steppe (Bouteloua gracilis) and the tallgrass prairie (Andropogon gerardii). We compared these to individuals from PPs in a reciprocal-transplant common garden experiment with gardens at the Shortgrass Steppe Long Term Ecological Research site in Colorado and the Konza Prairie Biological Station Long Term Ecological Research site in Kansas. DPs and PPs were subjected to high and reduced water availability in common gardens located in each biome. Traits measured included the following: individual plant biomass, reproductive allocation, specific leaf area (SLA) and plant–water relations. We focused on the climate-change relevant comparisons of traits from PPs versus DPs expressed under the climate of DPs.
    Important findings PPs of B. gracilis differed from DPs primarily in phenological traits. Under a semiarid shortgrass steppe climate, PPs initiated flowering later in the season, produced fewer reproductive tillers and were more sensitive to water stress. Biomass differences between populations were minimal. For A. gerardii, biomass in PPs was 50% lower than in DPs under the mesic tallgrass prairie climate and reproductive tillers were considerably smaller, despite higher SLA in PPs. Biomass of PPs was less sensitive to water stress, however. From these results, we conclude that key traits of PPs differed from DPs in both grassland types, but potential effects on reproductive phenology were greater for the bioclimatic shift in which a mesic biome becomes arid, whereas aboveground productivity may be affected more when a semiarid biome becomes more mesic.
    Carly J. Stevens, David J. G. Gowing
    2014, 7 (3): 222-230.
    Abstract ( 61 )   PDF   Save
    Aims Although the effects of N addition on plant biomass are well understood, we know a lot less about the importance of N form even though some studies have shown different impacts from reduced and oxidized forms of N. Furthermore, responses to grazing are likely to interact with the response to N addition. This experiment investigates the interactive effects of N addition and form with clipping on competition between three grassland species.
    Methods The three species (Anthoxanthum odoratum L., Plantago lanceolata L. and Prunella vulgaris L.) were grown alone and in combination with factorial additions of deionized water, sodium nitrate and ammonium chloride, and a clipping treatment. Above- and belowground biomass was harvested after 4 months.
    Important findings In monocultures, the results show increases in biomass with N addition, but clipping resulted in fewer changes with species displaying varying degrees of growth compensation. A. odoratum was the strongest competitor when grown with other species. In monocultures without clipping, N form was not important, but in the presence of clipping and in different species combinations, N form became important. Significant two- and three-way interactive effects were observed showing that complex interactions exist between N addition, clipping and species identity. The results have important implications when considering the effects of N deposition.
    Zhilong Zhang, Kechang Niu, Xudong Liu, Peng Jia, Guozhen Du
    2014, 7 (3): 231-239.
    Abstract ( 60 )   PDF   Save
    Aims Plants can change in phenology and biomass allocation in response to environmental change. It has been demonstrated that nitrogen is the most limiting resource for plants in many terrestrial ecosystems. Previous studies have usually focused on either flowering phenology or biomass allocation of plants in response to nitrogen addition; however, attempts to link flowering phenology and biomass allocation are still rare. In this study, we tested the effects of nitrogen addition on both flowering phenology and reproductive allocation in 34 common species. We also examined the potential linkage between flowering time and reproductive allocation in response to nitrogen addition.
    Methods We conducted a 3-year nitrogen addition experiment in Tibetan alpine meadow. We measured first flowering date and the reproductive allocation for 34 common plant species in control, low and high nitrogen added plots, respectively. One-way analysis of variance was used to examine differences of first flowering date and reproductive allocation among treatments. The relationships between the change in species first flowering date and change in reproductive allocation in response to nitrogen addition were examined by calculating Pearson correlation coefficients.
    Important findings For most species, both first flowering date and reproductive allocation significantly responded to nitrogen addition. Nitrogen addition significantly delayed the first flowering date and reduced the reproductive allocation for all graminoid species, but accelerated flowering and increased reproductive allocation for most forb species. We found that changes in first flowering date significantly negatively correlated with the changes in reproductive allocation over species in response to nitrogen, which indicated a positive relationship between flowering response and plant performance in reproductive allocation. Species that advanced their flowering time with nitrogen addition increased their reproductive allocation, whereas those that delayed flowering time tended to decline in reproductive allocation with nitrogen addition. Our results suggest that species-specific switch from vegetative growth to reproductive growth could influence species performance.
    Yuecun Ma, Biao Zhu, Zhenzhong Sun, Chuang Zhao, Yan Yang, Shilong Piao
    2014, 7 (3): 240-249.
    Abstract ( 62 )   PDF   Save
    Aims Nitrogen (N) addition could affect the rate of forest litter and soil organic matter decomposition by regulating extracellular enzyme activity (EEA). The impact of N addition on EEA may differ across different age stands with different organic matter quality. We were interested in whether the impact of N addition on EEA in litter and mineral soil during the growing season was dependent on stand age of a larch plantation in North China.
    Methods We added three levels of N (0, 20 and 50kg N ha-1 year-1) in three age stands (11, 20 and 45 years old) of Larix principis-rupprechtii plantation in North China. We measured potential activities of β-1,4-glucosidase (BG), cellobiohydrolase (CB), β-1,4-N-acetyl-glucosaminidase (NAG) and phenol oxidase (PO) in litter (organic horizon) and mineral soil (0–10cm) during the second growing season after N amendment. We also measured C and N concentrations, microbial biomass C and N, and KCl-extractable ammonium and nitrate in both litter and mineral soil.
    Important findings We observed unimodal patterns of EEA during the growing season in all three stands, consistent with the seasonal variations of soil temperature. Stand age had a strong effect on EEA in both litter and mineral soil, and this effect differed between litter and mineral soil as well as between different enzymes. N addition did not significantly affect the activities of BG or CB but significantly suppressed the activity of NAG in litter. We also found stand age-specific responses of PO activity to N addition in both litter and mineral soil. N addition suppressed PO activity of the high C:N ratio litters in 20- and 45-year-old stands but had no significant effect on PO activity of the low C:N ratio litter in 11-year-old stand. Moreover, N addition inhibited PO activity of the high C:N ratio soil in 20-year-old stand but had no significant impact on PO activity of the low C:N ratio soils in 11- and 45-year-old stands. Overall, stand age had a greater effect on EEA in litter and mineral soil compared to 2 years of N addition. Moreover, the effect of N addition on PO activity is stand age dependent, which may affect the long-term soil carbon storage in this forest.
    S. N. Tripathi, A. S. Raghubanshi
    2014, 7 (3): 250-263.
    Abstract ( 70 )   PDF   Save
    Aims Increasing anthropogenic nitrogen (N) deposition has been claimed to induce changes in species composition and community dynamics. A greenhouse experiment was conducted to examine the effect of increased N availability on growth and functional attributes of seedlings of five tree species with different life history characteristics under varying irradiances. The following questions have been addressed: (i) how do the pioneer and non-pioneer species respond in absolute growth and relative growth rate (RGR) to the interaction of light and nitrogen? (ii) how does the interaction between irradiance and nitrogen availability modulate growth attributes (i.e. functional attributes)? (iii) is there any variation in growth responses between leguminous and non-leguminous species along the light and nitrogen gradients?
    Methods Seedlings of five tree species (Acacia catechu, Bridelia retusa, Dalbergia sissoo, Lagerstroemia parviflora and Terminalia arjuna) were subjected to twelve combinations of irradiance and N levels. Various growth traits, including height (HT), basal area (BA), whole plant dry biomass (M D), leaf mass per unit area (LMA), leaf area ratio (LAR), net assimilation rate (NAR), RGR, biomass fractions, root-to-shoot ratio (R:S) and leaf nitrogen content, were studied to analyse intra- and inter-specific responses to interacting light and N gradients.
    Important findings Significant interactions for irradiance and N availability for majority of growth attributes indicates that growth and biomass allocation of seedlings were more responsive to N availability under high irradiance. However, species responded differentially to N addition and they did not follow successional status. Slow growers (B. retusa, a shade-tolerant species and L. parviflora, a light demander) exhibited greater response to N enrichment than the fast growers (A. catechu, D. sissoo and T. arjuna). However, N-mediated increment in growth traits was greater in non-legumes (B. retusa, L. parviflora and T. arjuna) compared with that of legumes (A. catechu and D. sissoo). Allocation of biomass to root was strongly suppressed at the highest N supply across species; however, at high irradiance and high N availability, a greater suppression in R:S ratio was observed for B. retusa. NAR was a stronger determinant of RGR relative to LAR, suggesting its prominent role in increased RGR along increasing irradiances. Overall, a higher growth response of slow-growing species to elevated N levels, particularly the non-pioneers (B. retusa and L. parviflora) suggests that future N deposition may lead to perturbations in competition hierarchies and species composition, ultimately affecting community dynamics in nutrient-poor tropical dry forests.
    Alejandro Loydi, Kerstin Lohse, Annette Otte, Tobias W. Donath, R. Lutz Eckstein
    2014, 7 (3): 264-275.
    Abstract ( 58 )   PDF   Save
    Aims After abandonment of grasslands, secondary succession leads to the invasion by woody species. This process begins with the accumulation of tree litter in the forest–grassland ecotone. Our objectives were to determine the relationships between litter amounts and vegetation composition and cover along natural forest–grassland ecotones and to experimentally study the initial effects of tree litter accumulation on grassland vegetation and on microsite conditions.
    Methods We established 11 transects varying from 12 to 15 m in length in different forest–grassland ecotones in the Lahn-Dill highlands, Germany, and measured the mass and cover of tree litter and the cover and composition of vegetation at five sequential positions along each transect by using 1 m 2 plots with five replications. In a field experiment, we established plots subjected to different litter amounts (0, 200 and 600g m ?2) and evaluated changes in grassland vegetation, soil temperature and soil nutrient availability below the litter layer.
    Important findings Tree litter amounts decrease from 650 to 65g m ?2 across the forest–grassland ecotone. Vegetation changed from shrubs and annual species (adapted to more stressful conditions) in the forests edge to grasses, rosettes and hemirosette species (with higher competitive abilities) in the grassland. These anthropogenic forest–grassland ecotones showed abrupt edges, and the two adjacent ecosystems were characterized by different species pools and functional groups. In the field experiment, the presence of a litter layer reduced vegetation biomass and cover; the species richness was only reduced in the treatment with high litter (600g m ?2). Additionally, adding litter on top of vegetation also reduced thermal amplitude and the number of frost days, while increasing the availability of some nutrients, such as nitrogen and aluminium, the latter being an indicator of soil acidification. Adding a tree litter layer of 600g m ?2 in grassland areas had strong effects on the composition and diversity of grassland vegetation by reducing the cover of several key grassland species. In, or near, forest edges, litter accumulation rapidly changes established vegetation, microsite conditions and soil nutrients.
    Stefanie Wilberts, Matthias Suter, Nina Walser, Peter J. Edwards, Harry Olde Venterink, Dieter Ramseier
    2014, 7 (3): 276-286.
    Abstract ( 60 )   PDF   Save
    Aims The volume of soil beyond a plant's roots from which that plant is able to acquire a particular nutrient depends upon the mobility of that nutrient in the soil. For this reason it has been hypothesized that the strength of competitive interactions between plants vary with soil nutrient mobility. We aimed to provide an experimental test of this hypothesis.
    Methods We devised two experimental systems to investigate specifically the effect of nutrient transport rates upon intraspecific competition. In the first, the exchange of rhizosphere water and dissolved nutrients between two connected pots, each containing one plant, was manipulated by alternately raising and lowering the pots. In the second experiment, the roots systems of two competing plants were separated by partitions of differing porosity, thereby varying the plants' access to water and nutrients in the other plant′s rhizosphere. In this second experiment, we also applied varying amounts of nutrients to test whether higher nutrient input would reduce competition when competition for light is avoided, and applied different water levels to affect nutrient concentrations without changing nutrient supply.
    Important findings In both experiments, lower mobility reduced competitive effects on plant biomass and on relative growth rate (RGR), as hypothesized. In the second experiment, however, competition was more intense under high nutrient input, suggesting that low nutrient supply rates reduced the strength of the superior competitor. Competitive effects on RGR were only evident under the low water level, suggesting that under lower nutrient concentrations, competitive effects might be less pronounced. Taken together, our results provide the first direct experimental evidence that a reduction in nutrient mobility can reduce the intensity of competition between plants.
    Markus Hauck, Uwe de Bruyn, Samjaa Javkhlan, Dorjburgedaa Lkhagvadorj
    2014, 7 (3): 287-297.
    Abstract ( 61 )   PDF   Save
    Aims The effects of traditional land use by mobile livestock keepers on biodiversity in forest steppe ecotones are insufficiently studied. Epiphytes are an important part of forest plant diversity. Here we analyze differences in the diversity and composition of the epiphytic lichen vegetation between the edge and the interior of Siberian larch forests in the Khangai Mountains, western Mongolia, which are highly subdivided into patches. We asked whether the epiphytic lichen vegetation at the forest edge differs significantly from that in the interior, whether the edge is inhabited by more nitrophilous species than the interior and whether the density of nomad camps around the forest affects epiphytic lichen diversity.
    Methods Cover percentages of epiphytic lichen species were recorded from 20 trees per plot on 6 plots in the interior and 6 plots at the edge of Larix sibirica forests. The position of nomad summer camps was surveyed using Global Positioning System. Data were analyzed with pairwise significance tests, analysis of similarities, nonmetric multidimensional scaling and canonical correspondence analysis.
    Important findings The composition of the epiphytic lichen vegetation clearly differed between the two habitats, with more species being more frequent at the edge than in the interior. However, there was no difference in species richness (α-diversity). The epiphyte vegetation at the edge was more uniform and characterized by lower variation of tree-level α-diversity and lower β-diversity than in the interior. At the edge, only nitrophytic lichens were dominant, whereas in the interior, nitrophytes and acidophytes were among the dominant species. This pattern is probably attributable to the spatial heterogeneity of the intensity of forest grazing and was shown to be influenced by the density of nomad summer camps in the vicinity of the forests. Tree-level α-diversity increased with stem diameter, but high-diameter trees were rare. The results suggest that the present level of forest patchiness and the effect of forest grazing increases the diversity of epiphytic lichens on the landscape level, while logging of high-diameter trees reduces lichen diversity.
    Emiru Birhane, Frank J. Sterck, Frans Bongers, Thomas W. Kuyper
    2014, 7 (3): 298-308.
    Abstract ( 63 )   PDF   Save
    Aims Arbuscular mycorrhizal fungi can have a substantial effect on the water and nutrient uptake by plants and the competition between plants in harsh environments where resource availability comes in pulses. In this study we focus on interspecific competition between Acaia etbaica and Boswellia papyrifera that have distinctive resource acquisition strategies. We compared the extent of interspecific competition with that of intraspecific competition.
    Methods In a greenhouse study we examined the influence of Arbuscular Mycorrhiza (AM) and pulsed water availability on competitive interactions between seedlings of the rapidly growing species A. etbaica and the slowly growing species B. papyrifera. A factorial experimental design was used. The factors were AM, two water levels and five species combinations
    Important findings Seedlings of both species benefitted from AM when grown alone, and the positive growth response to pulsed water availability in B. papyrifera seedlings was in contrast with the negative growth response for A. etbaica seedlings. AM also affected the competitive performance of both species. B. papyrifera was not affected by intraspecific competition, whereas A. etbaica was negatively affected compared to the seedlings grown alone. This effect was stronger in the presence of AM. In interspecific competition, A. etbaica outcompeted B. papyrifera. Mycorrhiza and pulsed water availability did not affect the outcome of interspecific competition, and the aggressivity index of A. etbaica remained unchanged. The extent to which AM influences plant competition in a drought-stressed environment may depend on belowground functional traits of the species. AM and pulsed water availability could modify the balance between intraspecific and interspecific competition. By affecting the balance between intraspecific and interspecific competition, both factors could impact the establishment and survival of seedlings.
    Shuai Ouyang, Xiangping Wang, Yulian Wu, Osbert Jianxin Sun
    2014, 7 (3): 309-320.
    Abstract ( 45 )   PDF   Save
    Aims A lack of explicit information on differential controls on net primary productivity (NPP) across regions and ecosystem types is largely responsible for uncertainties in global trajectories of terrestrial carbon balance with changing environment. The objectives of this study were to determine how NPP of different forest types would respond to inter-annual variability of climate and to examine the responses of NPP to future climate change scenarios across contrasting forest types in northern China.
    Methods We investigated inter-annual variations of NPP in relation to climate variability across three forest types in northern China, including a boreal forest dominated by Larix gmelinii Rupr., and two temperate forests dominated by Pinus tabulaeformis Carr. and Quercus wutaishanica Mayr., respectively, and studied the responses of NPP in these forests to predicted changes in climate for the periods 2011–40, 2041–70 and 2070–100 under carbon emission scenarios A2 and B2 of Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change. We simulated the responses of NPP to predicted changes in future climate as well as inter-annual variability of the present climate with the Biome-BGC version 4.2 based on site- and species-specific parameters. The modeled forest NPP data were validated against values in literature for similar types of forests and compared with inter-annual growth variations reflected by tree-ring width index (RWI) at the study sites.
    Important findings Inter-annual variations in modeled NPP during the period 1960–06 were mostly consistent with the temporal patterns in RWI. There were contrasting responses of modeled NPP among the three forest types to inter-annual variability of the present climate as well as to predicted changes in future climate. The modeled NPP was positively related to annual mean air temperature in the L. gmelinii forest (P < 0.001), but negatively in the P. tabulaeformis forest (P = 0.05) and the Q. wutaishanica forest (P = 0.03), while the relationships of modeled NPP with annual precipitation for the three forest types were all positive. Multiple stepwise regression analyses showed that temperature was a more important constraint of NPP than precipitation in the L. gmelinii forest, whereas precipitation appeared to be a prominent factor limiting the growth in P. tabulaeformis and Q. wutaishanica. Model simulations suggest marked, but differential increases in NPP across the three forest types with predicted changes in future climate.
Impact Factor
5 year Impact Factor
Wen-Hao Zhang
Bernhard Schmid