Legume seeders of the Cape Floristic Region inhabit more fertile soils than congeneric resprouters—sometimes
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- Power, S.C., Cramer, M.D., Verboom, G.A. et al. Plant Ecol (2011) 212: 1979. doi:10.1007/s11258-011-9958-3
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In fire-prone ecosystems, plants for the most part persist via either soil-stored seed banks (seeders) or below-ground storage structures (resprouters). Given their greater allocation of resources above ground to growth and reproduction, seeders are likely to have a higher nutrient requirement than resprouters. This may result in discernable differences in habitat nutrition and leaf morphology. These differences are probably accentuated in Cape legumes given their poor adaptation to low-P soils. It was hypothesized that legume seeders occupy habitats with greater fertility and possess larger, less sclerophyllous leaves than resprouters. Site nutrition and leaf morphologies were compared between seeders and resprouters in the genera Otholobium and Psoralea. There were no differences in leaf morphology between seeders and resprouters. Seeders sites had a higher total [N], exchangeable [Ca] and [Mg], and CEC, but lower [Fe] than resprouters. Only within Otholobium, did seeder sites have a higher Bray II [P]. This genus-specific variation in available P is probably a consequence of greater variation in soil type and precipitation between seeders and resprouters. Conversely, niche construction may contribute to the differences in soil fertility between seeders and resprouters in Psoralea. Thus, our data showed a general tendency for seeders to inhabit more fertile sites than resprouters. Caution is required, however, in generalizing these results, as our data indicate a difference in factors affecting soil nutrient availability between legume genera. Changes in soil fertility post-fire may limit legume persistence beyond the early stages of succession.
KeywordsFabaceae Legumes Cape Regeneration strategy Resprouter Seeder Nutrient availability Specific leaf area
Cape Floristic Region