Plant Ecology

, Volume 211, Issue 2, pp 235-251

First online:

Variations in the foliar nutrient content of mire plants: effects of growth-form based grouping and habitat

  • Laura BombonatoAffiliated withDepartment of Biology and Evolution, Ferrara University
  • , Chiara SiffiAffiliated withDepartment of Biology and Evolution, Ferrara University
  • , Renato GerdolAffiliated withDepartment of Biology and Evolution, Ferrara University Email author 

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We determined concentrations of major nutrients in the vegetation of six habitat types (hummock, scrub, lawn, fen meadow, hollow and marginal stream), spanning a broad range of environmental conditions as regards water-table depth and water chemistry, in five mires on the southern Alps of Italy. Our study was based on chemical analyses of living tissues of plant species, grouped into growth-form based plant functional types (PFTs). We aimed at assessing to what extent the observed differences in tissue nutrient content were accounted for by community composition (both in terms of species and PFTs) and by habitat. Nutrient concentrations were overall lowest in Sphagnum mosses and highest in forbs, although the latter showed large variations presumably due to heterogeneity in mechanisms and adaptations for acquiring nutrients among species within this PFT. Nutrient content patterns in the other three PFTs varied greatly in relation to individual nutrients, with evergreen shrubs showing low nitrogen (N) concentrations, graminoids showing high N concentrations but low potassium (K) and magnesium (Mg) concentrations and deciduous shrubs showing rather high phosphorus (P) concentrations. Habitat accounted for a modest fraction of variation in tissue concentration of all nutrients except P. We concluded that the nutrient status of mire vegetation is primarily controlled by community composition and structure although habitat does exert a direct control on P concentration in the vegetation, presumably through P availability for plant uptake.


Bog Fen N:P ratio Nitrogen Phosphorus Plant functional type