Strengbom J, Nasholm T, Ericson L
Light, not nitrogen, limits growth of the grass Deschampsia flexuosa in boreal forests
Canadian Journal of Botany-Revue Canadienne De Botanique: 2004 82:430-435
Increased nitrogen (N) input in boreal forests has previously been shown to induce a shift from Vaccinium myrtillus L. to Deschampsia flexuosa (L.) Trin. as the dominant understory species. We investigated the relative importance of increased light and N for this shift, in a field experiment. We increased light availability, that is, we reduced aboveground competition from V myrtillus, and increased N by adding 50 kg N.ha(-1). Increased light availability had a positive effect on both the growth rate and final biomass of D. flexuosa. Although N addition increased the uptake of fertilizer N by both species, it had no effect on the growth or biomass of either species. Thus, aboveground competition from V myrtillus prevented expansion of D. flexuosa, regardless of N treatment. The results suggest that aboveground competition may be more important than belowground competition for structuring understory boreal forest communities. As light availability is important, both the structure and total amount of standing crop will be important for the outcome of species interactions.
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