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Linking N-driven biodiversity changes with soil N availability in a Mediterranean ecosystem

By Teresa Dias, Sónia Malveiro, Maria Amélia Martins-Loução, Lucy J. Sheppard and Cristina Cruz


Nitrogen (N) enrichment has been pinpointed as a main driver for biodiversity change. Most of our knowledge of effects of increased N availability on ecosystems comes from northern Europe and America. Most other ecosystem types have been neglected. In contribution to filling this gap, our study examined the short-term effects of N enrichment in a N-manipulation (doses and forms) field study of a severely nutrient-limited Mediterranean ecosystem located in a Natura 2000 site in Portugal. Our aims were to (a) understand the effects of N enrichment on plant diversity, and to (b) link N-driven plant community changes with changes in soil inorganic N availability. In general, the standing plant community responded to short-term N enrichment with increased richness and evenness. Changes in the plant community occurred through changes in species composition and cover, and were correlated with soil N, and N and phosphorus availability. Fertilization with 80 kg NH4NO3 ha−1 y−1 was the treatment which changed plant composition the most, while geophytes, hemicryptophytes and therophytes were the biological types more responsive to N enrichment. Dittrichia viscosa was the only species that responded significantly to increased N, i.e., its cover decreased in control plots, but increased in fertilized plots, suggesting that it could be used as an indicator of N enrichment in Mediterranean maquis. Changes in plant richness and evenness were correlated with the mean and/or the variation (standard deviation) of soil inorganic N parameters (e.g. nitrate concentration in the soil solution and the soil’s ratio of bioavailable N and phosphorus) measured along the time between the two plant community assessments. However, short- and long-term effects can be quite distinct, thus highlighting the need for further studies. \u

Topics: Botany, Ecology and Environment
Year: 2011
DOI identifier: 10.1007/s11104-010-0628-3
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