Phosphorus conservation during post-fire regeneration in a Chilean temperate rainforest

B.J. Seaman, Felipe Albornoz, J.J. Armesto, A. Gaxiola

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    10 Citations (Scopus)


    © 2015 Ecological Society of Australia. Nitrogen and phosphorus are the main elements limiting net primary production in terrestrial ecosystems. When growing in nutrient-poor soils, plants develop physiological mechanisms to conserve nutrients, such as reabsorbing elements from senescing foliage (i.e. nutrient retranslocation). We investigated the changes in soil N and P in post-fire succession in temperate rainforests of southern Chile. In this area, forest recovery often leads to spatially scattered, discrete regeneration with patches varying in age, area, species richness and tree cover, representing different degrees of recovery from disturbance. We hypothesized that soil nutrient concentrations should differ among tree regenerating patches depending on the progress of forest regeneration and that nutrient resorption should increase over time as colonizing trees respond to limited soil nutrients. To evaluate these hypotheses, we sampled 40 regeneration patches in an area of 5ha, spanning a broad range of vegetation complexity, and collected soil, tree foliage and litter samples to determine N and P concentrations. Nutrient concentrations in leaf litter were interpreted as nutrient resorption proficiency. We found that soil P was negatively correlated with all the indicators of successional progress, whereas total soil N was independent of the successional progress. Foliar N and P were unrelated to soil nutrient concentrations; however, litter N was negatively related to soil N, and litter P was positively related with soil P. Finally, foliar N:P ratios ranged from 16 to 25, which suggests that P limitation can hamper post-fire regeneration. We provide evidence that after human-induced fires, succession in temperate forests of Chile can become nutrient limited and that high nutrient retranslocation is a key nutrient conservation strategy for regenerating tree communities.
    Original languageEnglish
    Pages (from-to)709-717
    JournalAustral Ecology
    Issue number6
    Publication statusPublished - 2015


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