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Growth and nutrient stoichiometry responses to N and P fertilization of 8-year old Masson pines (Pinus massoniana) in subtropical China



Masson pine (Pinus massoniana) plantations are one of the most common forestry plantations in southern China. A high proportion of these plantations is managed as monoculture forests. Productivity in these plantations often declines as they age due to stand retrogression. In these plantations, fertilization is a key practice to prevent stand retrogression. Understanding how plants respond to nutrient fertilization at the tree and stand-level is crucial for evaluating the effects of fertilization and devising nutrient management strategies to prevent stand retrogression and to maintain plantation productivity.


To determine the effects of nutrient fertilization on plant growth and nutrient stoichiometry, we conducted a nitrogen and phosphorus fertilization experiment in an 8-year old Masson pine plantation in subtropical Hubei Province, China. Plant growth and nutrient stoichiometry responses to fertilization were determined over 12 months.


Tree growth in height and trunk diameter and resorption efficiency of both N and P responded positively to N and/or P fertilization. Soil total P concentration was low (0.32 mg/g). Leaf N:P ratio was high and increased (>20) in N fertilization but decreased (<9) in P fertilization.


Our results show that Masson pine plantations of the study area are severely P limited, with low soil P concentration, high leaf N:P ratio, and positive growth responses to P fertilization. As the most common forestry plantations in subtropical and tropical China, P limitation is likely to be a widespread problem facing the Masson pine plantation industry. Thus nutrient fertilization of Masson pine plantations in comparable contexts should focus on P management.

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Data availability

The datasets generated during and/or analyzed during the current study are available from the corresponding author on reasonable request.


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We would like to thank Taizishan Forest Farm for providing access and logistical support for the field fertilization experiment. Special thanks to Yiyuan Li, Licheng Liu, Xionghui Qi, Lihao Song and Qinghui Zhou for field and laboratory work assistance.


This study was funded by Chinese Ministry of Science and Technology (2017YFD0600304) and The Chinese Ministry of Education through Fundamental Research Funds for the Central Universities (2662020YLPY022 & 2662018QD059).

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Authors and Affiliations



Zhaogui Yan: conceptualization, funding acquisition, manuscript drafting; Ben Wang: methodology, data curation and analysis, manuscript drafting, funding acquisition; Jihao Chen: data analysis, field sampling, manuscript drafting; Guan Huang: methodology, field sampling, laboratory chemical analysis; Shuai Zhao: methodology, data analysis, editing; Fangwei Dong: methodology, data analysis, editing; Yangyang Zhang: methodology; data analysis, editing; Wei He: conceptualization, methodology, editing; Pengcheng Wang: conceptualization, funding acquisition, review. All authors read and approve the submission to Plant and Soil.

Corresponding author

Correspondence to Zhaogui Yan.

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The authors declare that they have no known competing financial interests or personal relationships that could have appeared to influence the work reported in this paper.

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The manuscript was pre-reviewed by Prof. Ian T. Riley (a consulting editor with Plant and Soil, formerly of the University of Adelaide). Email:

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Wang, B., Chen, J., Huang, G. et al. Growth and nutrient stoichiometry responses to N and P fertilization of 8-year old Masson pines (Pinus massoniana) in subtropical China. Plant Soil (2022).

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  • Fertilization
  • Masson pine plantation
  • Nutrient management
  • Phosphorus limitation
  • Stand retrogression
  • Tree growth