Interspecific vs intraspecific patterns in leaf nitrogen of forest trees across nitrogen availability gradients.

Academic Article


  • Leaf nitrogen content (δ) coordinates with total canopy N and leaf area index (LAI) to maximize whole-crown carbon (C) gain, but the constraints and contributions of within-species plasticity to this phenomenon are poorly understood. Here, we introduce a game theoretic, physiologically based community model of height-structured competition between late-successional tree species. Species are constrained by an increasing, but saturating, relationship between photosynthesis and leaf N per unit leaf area. Higher saturating rates carry higher fixed costs. For a given whole-crown N content, a C gain-maximizing compromise exists between δ and LAI. With greater whole-crown N, both δ and LAI increase within species. However, a shift in community composition caused by reduced understory light at high soil N availability (which competitively favors species with low leaf costs and consequent low optimal δ) counteracts the within-species response, such that community-level δ changes little with soil N availability. These model predictions provide a new explanation for the changes in leaf N per mass observed in data from three dominant broadleaf species in temperate deciduous forests of New England. Attempts to understand large-scale patterns in vegetation often omit competitive interactions and intraspecific plasticity, but here both are essential to an understanding of ecosystem-level patterns.
  • Authors

  • Dybzinski, Ray
  • Farrior, Caroline E
  • Ollinger, Scott
  • Pacala, Stephen W
  • Status

    Publication Date

  • October 2013
  • Published In

  • New Phytologist  Journal
  • Keywords

  • Biomass
  • Carbon
  • Ecosystem
  • Evolutionarily Stable Strategy (ESS)
  • Light
  • Models, Biological
  • New England
  • Nitrogen
  • Perfect Plasticity Approximation (PPA)
  • Photosynthesis
  • Plant Leaves
  • Soil
  • Species Specificity
  • Trees
  • White Mountains New Hampshire
  • foliar nitrogen (N)
  • forest diversity
  • game theory
  • light competition
  • shade tolerance
  • Digital Object Identifier (doi)

    Pubmed Id

  • 23738827
  • Start Page

  • 112
  • End Page

  • 121
  • Volume

  • 200
  • Issue

  • 1