Interspecific vs intraspecific patterns in leaf nitrogen of forest trees across nitrogen availability gradients

Ray Dybzinski, Caroline E. Farrior, Scott Ollinger, Stephen Wilson Pacala

Research output: Contribution to journalArticle

11 Citations (Scopus)

Abstract

Leaf nitrogen content (δ) coordinates with total canopy N and leaf area index (LAI) to maximize whole-crown carbon (C) gain, but the constraints and contributions of within-species plasticity to this phenomenon are poorly understood. Here, we introduce a game theoretic, physiologically based community model of height-structured competition between late-successional tree species. Species are constrained by an increasing, but saturating, relationship between photosynthesis and leaf N per unit leaf area. Higher saturating rates carry higher fixed costs. For a given whole-crown N content, a C gain-maximizing compromise exists between δ and LAI. With greater whole-crown N, both δ and LAI increase within species. However, a shift in community composition caused by reduced understory light at high soil N availability (which competitively favors species with low leaf costs and consequent low optimal δ) counteracts the within-species response, such that community-level δ changes little with soil N availability. These model predictions provide a new explanation for the changes in leaf N per mass observed in data from three dominant broadleaf species in temperate deciduous forests of New England. Attempts to understand large-scale patterns in vegetation often omit competitive interactions and intraspecific plasticity, but here both are essential to an understanding of ecosystem-level patterns.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)112-121
Number of pages10
JournalNew Phytologist
Volume200
Issue number1
DOIs
StatePublished - Oct 1 2013

Fingerprint

Crowns
forest trees
Nitrogen
leaf area index
tree crown
nitrogen
Soil
Costs and Cost Analysis
leaves
New England
Photosynthesis
Ecosystem
New England region
Carbon
temperate forests
deciduous forests
nitrogen content
understory
Light
soil

All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes

  • Physiology
  • Plant Science

Keywords

  • Evolutionarily Stable Strategy (ESS)
  • Foliar nitrogen (N)
  • Forest diversity
  • Game theory
  • Light competition
  • Perfect Plasticity Approximation (PPA)
  • Shade tolerance
  • White Mountains New Hampshire

Cite this

Dybzinski, Ray ; Farrior, Caroline E. ; Ollinger, Scott ; Pacala, Stephen Wilson. / Interspecific vs intraspecific patterns in leaf nitrogen of forest trees across nitrogen availability gradients. In: New Phytologist. 2013 ; Vol. 200, No. 1. pp. 112-121.
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Interspecific vs intraspecific patterns in leaf nitrogen of forest trees across nitrogen availability gradients. / Dybzinski, Ray; Farrior, Caroline E.; Ollinger, Scott; Pacala, Stephen Wilson.

In: New Phytologist, Vol. 200, No. 1, 01.10.2013, p. 112-121.

Research output: Contribution to journalArticle

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