University of Oulu

Werner, C.M., Tuomi, M. & Eskelinen, A. Trait-based responses to cessation of nutrient enrichment in a tundra plant community. Oecologia 197, 675–684 (2021).

Trait-based responses to cessation of nutrient enrichment in a tundra plant community

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Author: Werner, Chhaya M.1,2,3; Tuomi, Maria4; Eskelinen, Anu1,2,3
Organizations: 1Department of Physiological Diversity, Helmholtz Center for Environmental Research (UFZ), 04318, Leipzig, Germany
2German Centre for Integrative Biodiversity Research (iDiv) Halle-Jena-Leipzig, 04103, Leipzig, Germany
3Department of Ecology and Genetics, University of Oulu, 90014, Oulu, Finland
4Department of Arctic and Marine Biology, UiT, The Arctic University of Norway, 9019, Tromso, Norway
Format: article
Version: published version
Access: open
Online Access: PDF Full Text (PDF, 0.9 MB)
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Language: English
Published: Springer Nature, 2021
Publish Date: 2021-11-25


Plant communities worldwide show varied responses to nutrient enrichment—including shifts in species identity, decreased diversity, and changes in functional trait composition—but the factors determining community recovery after the cessation of nutrient addition remain uncertain. We manipulated nutrient levels in a tundra community for 6 years of nutrient addition followed by 8 years of recovery. We examined how community recovery was mediated by traits related to plant resource-use strategy and plant ability to modify their environment. Overall, we observed persistent effects of fertilization on plant communities. We found that plants with fast-growing traits, including higher specific leaf area, taller stature and lower foliar C:N, were more likely to show a persistent increase in fertilized plots than control plots, maintaining significantly higher cover in fertilized plots 8 years after cessation of fertilization. Additionally, although graminoids responded most strongly to the initial fertilization treatment, forb species were more vulnerable to fertilization effects in the long-term, showing persistent decline and no recovery in 8 years. Finally, these persistent fertilization effects were accompanied by modified environmental conditions, including persistent increases in litter depth and soil phosphorous and lower soil C:N. Our results demonstrate the potential for lasting effects of nutrient enrichment in nutrient-limited systems and identify species traits related to rapid growth and nutrient-use efficiency as the main predictors of the persistence of nutrient enrichment effects. These findings highlight the usefulness of trait-based approach for understanding the persistent feedbacks of nutrient enrichment, plant dynamics, and niche construction via litter and nutrient build-up.

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Series: Oecologia
ISSN: 0029-8549
ISSN-E: 1432-1939
ISSN-L: 0029-8549
Volume: 197
Issue: 3
Pages: 675 - 684
DOI: 10.1007/s00442-021-05064-w
Type of Publication: A1 Journal article – refereed
Field of Science: 1181 Ecology, evolutionary biology
Funding: Open Access funding enabled and organized by Projekt DEAL. This study was funded by the Finnish Cultural Foundation and Academy of Finland (project numbers 253385 and 24302284) to A. Eskelinen.
Academy of Finland Grant Number: 253385
Detailed Information: 253385 (Academy of Finland Funding decision)
Copyright information: © The Author(s) 2021. This article is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 International License, which permits use, sharing, adaptation, distribution and reproduction in any medium or format, as long as you give appropriate credit to the original author(s) and the source, provide a link to the Creative Commons licence, and indicate if changes were made. The images or other third party material in this article are included in the article's Creative Commons licence, unless indicated otherwise in a credit line to the material. If material is not included in the article's Creative Commons licence and your intended use is not permitted by statutory regulation or exceeds the permitted use, you will need to obtain permission directly from the copyright holder. To view a copy of this licence, visit