Coexistence mechanisms differ along a long-term soil chronosequence

Norman Mason and colleagues have a paper in the Journal in Early View titled “Changes in coexistence mechanisms along a long-term soil chronosequence revealed by functional trait diversity“. Read the paper here.

The authors have provided a short description of their research below, with some pictures of their study sites.

Their 250 year old site with high soil Phosphorous, and dense canopy cover. Photo credit: Duane Peltzer.

We found evidence that mechanisms for plant species co-existence differed amongst forest communities occurring along a soil Phosphorous gradient. We measured leaf functional traits which are indicators of soil nutrient use rates. Functional diversity of these traits was used to detect mechanisms of species co-existence. Functional diversity revealed that differences between species in their rates of resource use were required for co-existence on highly fertile soils, but not on nutrient poor soils, where most species appeared to have very low rates of nutrient resource use. This result suggests that forest conservation and restoration on fertile soils should aim to preserve or recreate communities containing both nutrient demanding and nutrient conserving species.

Their 120,000 year old site, with very low soil Phosphorous. Photo credit: Sarah Richardson.

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