, Volume 148, Issue 2, pp 245-253

Patterns of root activity and responses of species to nutrients in vegetation of fertile alluvial soil

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Abstract

Temporal pattern of growth, time and depth of root activity, and responses to N, P and K enrichment were measured for the three most abundant species in species-poor vegetation on fertile alluvial soil to examine whether differences in these characteristics could account for their co-existence. The responses of these co-existing species to nutrients were tested in a factorial experiment of N, P and K additions. In the control plots, repeated harvests and injections of Sr at different depths in the soil were used to test differences among species in temporal and spatial pattern of root activity. Root activities were assessed from the Sr concentrations in the aboveground biomass. Differences in temporal pattern of growth and root activity, but not differences in spatial root activity between species, could account for the co-existence of species, since Conium, the most abundant species, was the earliest grown and the deepest-rooted species and it died back when the other two species started to maximize their growth and root activity. In comparison with the second most abundant species Lactuca, Conium had higher N but lower P tissue concentrations. Addition of N favoured Conium and almost eliminated Lactuca, while P and/or K additions increased the abundance of Lactuca and restricted that of Conium. These results provide indications that the differential responses of species to nutrients could be explained by species co-existence also in fertile soils. The changes in vegetation composition after nutrient enrichment could merely be predicted by the species' tissue concentrations of nutrients. The addition of a particular nutrient tended to favor the species with the highest tissue concentration of this nutrient.