Influence of long-term nutrient manipulation on specific leaf area and leaf nutrient concentrations in savanna woody species of contrasting leaf phenologies
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Background and aims
The Neotropical Savanna in Central Brazil (Cerrado) is characterized by periodic fires and soils with extremely low nutrient levels. We used long-term field experiments to investigate how frequent fires and long-term changes in soil nutrient availability would affect leaf structure and leaf nutrient status of Cerrado trees.
We measured specific leaf area (SLA, the ratio of leaf area per leaf dry mass) and leaf nutrient concentrations in 15 tree species of distinct leaf phenologies subjected to eight treatments, including control. Treatments comprised various conditions of nutrient availability (fertilization, addition and removal of litter) and fire regime (controlled biennial fires). The control consisted of undisturbed natural vegetation.
Leaf traits generally varied among species. Species responded to fertilization, exhibiting higher Ca and Mg leaf concentrations, while SLA, and leaf N, P and K concentrations did not differ across treatments. We found significant differences reflecting contrasting ecological strategies among phenological groups: deciduous species had higher nutrient leaf concentrations and SLA, while evergreen species showed the lowest values and briefly deciduous species showed intermediate values.
We found low leaf-level responses to nutrient manipulations, probably reflecting the conservative resource-use strategy typical of nutrient-poor environments.
KeywordsLeaf phenology Fertilization Fire Litter manipulation Phenotypic plasticity Cerrado
MCS was supported by a postdoctoral fellowship from CNPq (Conselho Nacional de Desenvolvimento Científico e Tecnológico), Brazil. ACF was was supported by Fundação de Apoio à Pesquisa do Distrito Federal (FAPDF) and CNPq. We thank RECOR/IBGE for the logistic support and Fabricius Domingos for reviewing early versions of this manuscript.
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