Different plant traits affect two pathways of riparian nitrogen removal in a restored freshwater wetland
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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.
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.
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.
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.
KeywordsBiodiversity and ecosystem function Denitrification potential (DNP) North Carolina Plant traits Wetland restoration
aboveground biomass carbon to nitrogen ratio
biodiversity and ecosystem function
belowground biomass carbon to nitrogen ratio
Below-ground Rooting Ratio
Denitrification Enzyme Assay
extractable nitrate + nitrite
structural equation modeling
specific leaf area
specific root length
water use efficiency