Foliar and soil concentrations and stoichiometry of nitrogen and phosphorous across European Pinus sylvestris forests : relationships with climate, N deposition and tree growth
Faculty of Sciences. Biology
Functional ecology / British Ecological Society. - Oxford
, p. 676-689
University of Antwerp
This study investigated the factors underlying the variability of needle and soil elemental composition and stoichiometry and their relationships with growth in Pinus sylvestris forests throughout the species' distribution in Europe by analysing data from 2245 forest stands. Needle N concentrations and N:P ratios were positively correlated with total atmospheric N deposition, whereas needle P concentrations were negatively correlated. These relationships were especially pronounced at sites where high levels of N deposition coincided with both higher mean annual temperature and higher mean annual precipitation. Trends towards foliar P deficiency were thus more marked when high N deposition coincided with climatic conditions favourable to plant production. Atmospheric N deposition was positively correlated with soil solution inline image , inline image , K+, P and Ca2+ concentrations, the soil solution inline image:P ratio, total soil N and the total soil N:Olsen P ratio and was negatively correlated with soil Olsen P concentration. Despite these nutrient imbalances, during the period studied (19902006), N deposition was positively related with Pinus sylvestris absolute basal diameter (BD) growth, although only accounting for the 10% of the total variance. However, neither N deposition nor needle N concentration was related with relative annual BD growth. In contrast, needle P concentration was positively related with both absolute and relative annual BD growth. These results thus indicate a tendency of European P. sylvestris forests to store N in trees and soil in response to N deposition and unveil a trend towards increased nutrient losses in run-off as a consequence of higher soil solution N concentrations. Overall, the data show increasing ecosystem nutrient imbalances with increasingly limiting roles of P and other nutrients such as K in European P. sylvestris forests, especially in the centre of their distribution where higher levels of N deposition are observed. Thus, although the data show that N deposition has had an overall positive effect on P. sylvestris growth, the effect of continuous N deposition, associated with decreasing P and K and increasing N:P in leaves and in soil, may in the future become detrimental for the growth and competitive ability of P. sylvestris trees.