Meta-analysis of fertilization experiments indicates multiple limiting nutrients in northeastern deciduous forests

Academic Article


  • It is widely accepted that N limits primary production in temperate forests, although colimitation by N and P has also been suggested, and on some soils, Ca and base cations are in short supply. I conducted a meta-analysis to assess the strength of existing experimental evidence for limitation of primary production by N, P, and Ca in hardwood forests of the northeastern United States and southeastern Canada using data from 35 fertilization experiments in deciduous forests on glaciated soils across the region. There is strong evidence for N limitation (formal meta-analysis weighted mean response ratio = 1.51, p < 0.01; simple mean = 1.42, p < 0.001). Forest productivity also tended to increase with additions of P (simple mean = 1.15, p = 0.05) and Ca (simple mean = 1.36, p < 0.001). Across all treatments, 85% of response ratios were positive. Multiple-element additions had larger effects than single elements, but factorial experiments showed little evidence of synergistic effects between nutrient additions. Production responses correlated positively with the rate of N fertilization, but this effect was reduced at high rates of ambient N deposition.
  • Status

    Publication Date

  • September 2010
  • Has Subject Area

    Published In

    Digital Object Identifier (doi)

    Start Page

  • 1766
  • End Page

  • 1780
  • Volume

  • 40
  • Issue

  • 9