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Biomass allocation and phosphorus economics of rain-forest seedlings: effects of fertilization and radiation on soil specialists and soil generalists

Published online by Cambridge University Press:  01 February 2011

Sean M. Gleason
Monash University, School of Biological Sciences, Building 18, Victoria 3800, Australia
Jennifer Read
Monash University, School of Biological Sciences, Building 18, Victoria 3800, Australia
Adrian Ares
Oregon State University, Department of Forest Ecosystems and Society, 321 Richardson Hall, Corvallis, Oregon 97331, USA


Concurrent nutrient and radiation limitation in forests may engender trade-offs between P-use and radiation-use efficiency in tree species. To quantify these trade-offs, structural and physiological traits were examined among five rain-forest species subjected to four levels of fertilization and two levels of radiation in a glasshouse experiment. Schist specialists, Cryptocarya lividula and Ceratopetalum virchowii, occur only on P-poor schist soils, whereas soil generalists, Cryptocarya mackinnoniana, Franciscodendron laurifolium and Myristica insipida, occur on both P-poor schist and P-rich basalt soils. Wild seedlings less than 20 cm tall and 1 y old were collected from field sites, treated with fungicide, sorted into treatments (48 plants per species), and grown for 11 mo. We hypothesized that soil specialists would possess mainly non-plastic traits conferring high P-use efficiency, whereas soil generalists would possess markedly plastic traits conferring high radiation capture and use, enabling them to outcompete specialists on P-rich soils. Only generalist C. mackinnoniana and specialist C. virchowii supported these hypotheses. Cryptocarya mackinnoniana had more plastic root mass fraction, leaf area ratio, P uptake, and higher C assimilation than C. virchowii, which resulted in greater relative growth rates in high P treatments, but lower P-use efficiency in low P treatments. In contrast, specialist C. lividula demonstrated similar trait plasticity as C. mackinnoniana, suggesting that plasticity in these traits may be poor indicators of fitness on P-poor soils.

Research Article
Copyright © Cambridge University Press 2011

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