Plant and Soil

, Volume 289, Issue 1–2, pp 187–197 | Cite as

Shifts in plant nutrient use strategies under secondary forest succession

Research Paper


In evergreen broad-leaved forests (EBLFs) in Tiantong National Forest Park, Eastern China, we studied the soil chemistry and plant leaf nutrient concentration along a chronosequence of secondary forest succession. Soil total N, P and leaf N, P concentration of the most abundant plant species increased with forest succession. We further examined leaf lifespan, leaf nutrient characteristics and root–shoot attributes of Pinus massoniana Lamb, the early-successional species, Schima superba Gardn. et Champ, the mid-successional species, and Castanopsis fargesii Franch, the late-successional species. These species showed both intraspecific and interspecific variability along succession. Leaf N concentration of the three dominant species increased while N resorption tended to decrease with succession; leaf P and P resorption didn’t show a consistent trend along forest succession. Compared with the other two species, C. fargesii had the shortest leaf lifespan, largest decay rate and the highest taproot diameter to shoot base diameter ratio while P. massoniana had the highest root–shoot biomass ratio and taproot length to shoot height ratio. Overall, P. massoniana used ‘conservative consumption’ nutrient use strategy in the infertile soil conditions while C. fargesii took up nutrients in the way of ‘resource spending’ when nutrient supply increased. The attributes of S. superba were intermediate between the other two species, which may contribute to its coexistence with other species in a wide range of soil conditions.


Evergreen broad-leaved forests Leaf lifespan  Nutrient resorption Nutrient use strategies Root /shoot ratios Soil nutrients 


C. fargesii

Castanopsis fargesii


evergreen broad-leaved forest

P. massoniana

Pinus massoniana


root–shoot biomass ratio


root–shoot diameter ratio


root–shoot length ratio

S. superba

Schima superba



The authors thank Jia-Yue Shi, Liang Zhao and Dong He for their help in the field work, and Guang-Yao Li, Hui Dai, Wei Xia and Rui Wang for their help during laboratory work; Prof. Yong-Chang Song and Xiao-Yong Chen comment on the manuscript. Two anonymous reviewers made valuable comments and thoughts which greatly improved the manuscript. This study was supported by the National Natural Science Foundation of China (Grant No. 30130060).


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Copyright information

© Springer Science+Business Media B.V. 2006

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Department of Environment ScienceEast China Normal UniversityShanghaiPeople’s Republic of China
  2. 2.Department of Evolution, Ecology, and Organismal BiologyOhio State UniversityColumbusUSA

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