Stoichiometric homeostasis of vascular plants in the Inner Mongolia grassland

Qiang Yu, James Elser, Nianpeng He, Honghui Wu, Quansheng Chen, Guangming Zhang, Xingguo Han

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Abstract

Stoichiometric homeostasis, the degree to which an organism maintains its C:N:P ratios around a given species- or stage-specific value despite variation in the relative availabilities of elements in its resource supplies, is a key parameter in ecological stoichiometry. However, its regulation and role in affecting organismal and ecosystem processes is still poorly understood in vascular plants. We performed a sand culture experiment and a field nitrogen (N) and phosphorus (P) addition experiment to evaluate the strength of N, P and N:P homeostasis in higher plants in the Inner Mongolia grassland. Our results showed that homeostatic regulation coefficients (H) of vascular plants ranged from 1.93 to 14.5. H varied according to plant species, aboveground and belowground compartments, plant developmental stage, and overall plant nutrient content and N:P ratio. H for belowground and for foliage were inversely related, while H increased with plant developmental stage. H for N (HN) was consistently greater than H for P (HP) while H for N:P (HN:P) was consistently greater than HN and HP. Furthermore, species with greater N and P contents and lower N:P were less homeostatic, suggesting that more homeostatic plants are more conservative nutrient users. The results demonstrate that H of plants encompasses a considerable range but is stronger than that of algae and fungi and weaker than that of animals. This is the first comprehensive evaluation of factors influencing stoichiometric homeostasis in vascular plants.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)1-10
Number of pages10
JournalOecologia
Volume166
Issue number1
DOIs
StatePublished - May 1 2011

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Keywords

  • Developmental stages
  • Ecological stoichiometry
  • N:P ratio
  • Plant functional groups
  • Steppe

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Ecology, Evolution, Behavior and Systematics

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