Plant and Soil

, Volume 365, Issue 1, pp 41–57

Different plant traits affect two pathways of riparian nitrogen removal in a restored freshwater wetland

Authors

    • Nicholas School of the Environment and Earth SciencesDuke University
  • J. P. Wright
    • Biology DepartmentDuke University
  • C. J. Richardson
    • Nicholas School of the Environment and Earth SciencesDuke University
Regular Article

DOI: 10.1007/s11104-011-1113-3

Cite this article as:
Sutton-Grier, A.E., Wright, J.P. & Richardson, C.J. Plant Soil (2013) 365: 41. doi:10.1007/s11104-011-1113-3

Abstract

Background & aims

Plants may have dissimilar effects on ecosystem processes because they possess different attributes. Given increasing biodiversity losses, it is important to understand which plant traits are key drivers of ecosystem functions. To address this question, we studied the response of two ecosystem functions that remove nitrogen (N) from wetland soils, the accumulation of N in plant biomass and denitrification potential (DNP), to variation in plant trait composition.

Methods

Our experiment manipulated plant composition in a riparian wetland. We determined relative importance of plant traits and environmental variables as predictors of each ecosystem function.

Results

We demonstrate that Water Use Efficiency (WUE) had a strong negative effect on biomass N. Root porosity and belowground biomass were negatively correlated with DNP. Trait ordination indicated that WUE was largely orthogonal to traits that maximized DNP.

Conclusions

These results indicate that plant species with different trait values are required to maintain multiple ecosystem functions, and provide a more mechanistic, trait-based link between the recent findings that higher biodiversity is necessary for multi-functionality. While we selected plant traits based on ecological theory, several of the plant traits were not good predictors of each ecosystem function suggesting the ecological theory linking traits to function is incomplete and requires strengthening.

Keywords

Biodiversity and ecosystem function Denitrification potential (DNP) North Carolina Plant traits Wetland restoration

Abbreviations

AGB

aboveground biomass

AGCN

aboveground biomass carbon to nitrogen ratio

BEF

biodiversity and ecosystem function

BGB

belowground biomass

BGCN

belowground biomass carbon to nitrogen ratio

BGR

Below-ground Rooting Ratio

C

carbon

CO2

carbon dioxide

DEA

Denitrification Enzyme Assay

DNP

denitrification potential

N

nitrogen

NH4-N

extractable ammonium

NO3-N

extractable nitrate + nitrite

POR

root porosity

SEM

structural equation modeling

SLA

specific leaf area

SRL

specific root length

WUE

water use efficiency

Supplementary material

11104_2011_1113_MOESM1_ESM.doc (60 kb)
ESM 1 (DOC 60 kb)

Copyright information

© Springer Science+Business Media B.V. 2012