Twelve years of low nutrient input stimulates growth of trees and dwarf shrubs in the treeline ecotone

Möhl, Patrick and Mösdorf, Martin A. and Dawes, Melissa A. and Hagedorn, Frank and Bebi, Peter and Viglietti, Davide and Freppaz, Michele and Wipf, Sonja and Körner, Christian and Thomas, Frank M. and Rixen, Christian. (2019) Twelve years of low nutrient input stimulates growth of trees and dwarf shrubs in the treeline ecotone. Journal of Ecology, 107 (2). pp. 768-780.

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Official URL: https://edoc.unibas.ch/67118/

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Almost all natural terrestrial ecosystems are nutrient limited in terms of growth, and we expect treeline vegetation to be no exception. However, direct constraints of low temperature on tissue formation may superimpose effects of low nutrient availability. We examined growth responses of two tree (Larix decidua and Pinus uncinata) and two dwarf shrub species (Vaccinium myrtillus and Vaccinium gaultherioides) to 12 years of moderate fertilizer addition (NPK applied at a rate of 15 and 30 kg nitrogen ha−1 a−1) along an elevation gradient within the treeline ecotone in the Swiss Alps (2,083 to 2,225 m a.s.l.). We measured annual top‐ and side‐shoot increments as well as stem ring width in trees and shoot increments in dwarf shrubs. Fertilizer addition increased soil nutrient availability, indicated by enhanced soil extractable N, higher concentrations of N, P and K in leaves and higher foliar δ15N. Fertilizer addition stimulated annual growth of all four species: by 11%–20% for L. decidua and 15%–36% for P. uncinata (depending on trait) and by 8%–16% for the two dwarf shrub species. Growth stimulation by the higher fertilizer dose was not significantly stronger than by the lower dose (except for V. gaultherioides), suggesting an overall low nutrient demand for growth and saturation at a rather low nutrient input. Synthesis. Even slightly enhanced nutrient availability can stimulate growth of trees and dwarf shrubs in an alpine treeline ecosystem. Ongoing atmospheric nutrient deposition, in conjunction with global warming, may accelerate plant growth at the treeline.
Faculties and Departments:05 Faculty of Science > Departement Umweltwissenschaften > Ehemalige Einheiten Umweltwissenschaften > Pflanzenökologie (Körner)
UniBasel Contributors:Körner, Christian and Möhl, Patrick
Item Type:Article, refereed
Article Subtype:Research Article
Publisher:British Ecological Society
Note:Publication type according to Uni Basel Research Database: Journal article
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Last Modified:21 Sep 2020 08:24
Deposited On:17 Sep 2020 09:14

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