University Of Tasmania
Wooliver_et_al-2017-Ecology.pdf (1.11 MB)

Phylogeny is a powerful tool for predicting plant biomass responses to nitrogen enrichment

Download (1.11 MB)
journal contribution
posted on 2023-05-19, 10:02 authored by Wooliver, RC, Marion, ZH, Peterson, CR, Bradley PottsBradley Potts, Senior, J, Bailey, JK, Schweitzer, JA
Increasing rates of anthropogenic nitrogen (N) enrichment to soils often lead to the dominance of nitrophilic plant species and reduce plant diversity in natural ecosystems. Yet, we lack a framework to predict which species will be winners or losers in soil N enrichment scenarios, a framework that current literature suggests should integrate plant phylogeny, functional tradeoffs, and nutrient co-limitation. Using a controlled fertilization experiment, we quantified biomass responses to N enrichment for 23 forest tree species within the genus Eucalyptus that are native to Tasmania, Australia. Based on previous work with these species' responses to global change factors and theory on the evolution of plant resource-use strategies, we hypothesized that (1) growth responses to N enrichment are phylogenetically structured, (2) species with more resource-acquisitive functional traits have greater growth responses to N enrichment, and (3) phosphorus (P) limits growth responses to N enrichment differentially across species, wherein P enrichment increases growth responses to N enrichment more in some species than others. We built a hierarchical Bayesian model estimating effects of functional traits (specific leaf area, specific stem density, and specific root length) and P fertilization on species' biomass responses to N, which we then compared between lineages to determine whether phylogeny explains variation in responses to N. In concordance with literature on N limitation, a majority of species responded strongly and positively to N enrichment. Mean responses ranged three-fold, from 6.21 (E. pulchella) to 16.87 (E. delegatensis) percent increases in biomass per g N·m−2·yr−1 added. We identified a strong difference in responses to N between two phylogenetic lineages in the Eucalyptus subgenus Symphyomyrtus, suggesting that shared ancestry explains variation in N limitation. However, our model indicated that after controlling for phylogenetic non-independence, eucalypt responses to N were not associated with functional traits (although post-hoc analyses show a phylogenetic pattern in specific root length similar to that of responses to N), nor were responses differentially limited by P. Overall, our model results suggest that phylogeny is a powerful predictor of winners and losers in anthropogenic N enrichm


Publication title











School of Natural Sciences


Ecological Soc Amer

Place of publication

1707 H St Nw, Ste 400, Washington, USA, Dc, 20006-3915

Rights statement

Copyright 2017 by the Ecological Society of America

Repository Status

  • Open

Socio-economic Objectives

Hardwood plantations