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Leaf N and P stoichiometry of 57 plant species in the Karamori Mountain Ungulate Nature Reserve, Xinjiang, China

Abstract

Nitrogen (N) and phosphorus (P) are the major nutrients that constrain plant growth and development, as well as the structure and function of ecosystems. Hence, leaf N and P patterns can contribute to a deep understanding of plant nutrient status, nutrient limitation type of ecosystems, plant life-history strategy and differentiation of functional groups. However, the status and pattern of leaf N and P stoichiometry in N-deficiency desert ecosystems remain unclear. Under this context, the leaf samples from 57 plant species in the Karamori Mountain Ungulate Nature Reserve, eastern Junggar Desert, China were investigated and the patterns and interrelations of leaf N and P were comparatively analyzed. The results showed that the average leaf N concentration, P concentration, and N:P ratio were 30.81 mg/g, 1.77 mg/g and 17.72, respectively. This study found that the leaf N concentration and N:P ratio were significantly higher than those of studies conducted at global, national and regional scales; however, the leaf P concentration was at moderate level. Leaf N concentration was allometrically correlated with leaf P and N:P ratio across all species. Leaf N, P concentrations and N:P ratio differed to a certain extent among plant functional groups. C4 plants and shrubs, particularly shrubs with assimilative branches, showed an obviously lower P concentration than those of C3 plants, herbs and shrubs without assimilative branches. Shrubs with assimilative branches also had lower N concentration. Fabaceae plants had the highest leaf N, P concentrations (as well as Asteraceae) and N:P ratio; other families had a similar N, P-stoichiometry. The soil in this study was characterized by a lack of N (total N:P ratio was 0.605), but had high N availability compared with P (i.e. the available N:P ratio was 1.86). This might explain why plant leaves had high N concentration (leaf N:P ratio>16). In conclusion, the desert plants in the extreme environment in this study have formed their intrinsic and special stoichiometric characteristics in relation to their life-history strategy.

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Correspondence to Yuanming Zhang.

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Tao, Y., Wu, G., Zhang, Y. et al. Leaf N and P stoichiometry of 57 plant species in the Karamori Mountain Ungulate Nature Reserve, Xinjiang, China. J. Arid Land 8, 935–947 (2016). https://doi.org/10.1007/s40333-016-0019-6

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  • DOI: https://doi.org/10.1007/s40333-016-0019-6

Keywords

  • leaf stoichiometry
  • desert plant
  • functional group
  • nutrient limitation
  • Junggar Desert
  • Karamori Mountain