, Volume 334, Issue 1-2, pp 85-98

Foliar nitrogen and phosphorus accumulation responses after fertilization: an example from nutrient-limited Hawaiian forests

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How plants respond to long-term nutrient enrichment can provide insights into physiological and evolutionary constraints in various ecosystems. The present study examined foliar concentrations after fertilization—to determine if nutrient accumulation responses of the most abundant species in a plant community reflect differences in N and P uptake and storage. Using a chronosequence in the Hawaiian Islands that differs in N and P availability, it was shown that after fertilization, plants increase foliar P to a much greater degree than foliar N, as indicated by response ratios. In addition, foliar P responses after fertilization were more variable and largely driving the observed changes in N:P values. Across species, both inorganic and organic P increased but neither form of N increased significantly. This pattern of P accumulation was consistent across 13 species of varying life forms and occurred at both the N-limited and P-limited site, although its magnitude was larger at the P-limited site. Foliar P accumulation after nutrient enrichment may indicate nutrient storage and may have evolved to be a general strategy to deal with uncertainties in P availability. Storage of P complicates interpretations of N:P values and the determination of nutrient limitation.

Responsible Editor: Michael Denis Cramer.