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Plant Focus

A guest post by Matt Candeias, host of the In Defense of Plants podcast and blog

Oak Community Diversity Affects Nitrogen Concentration in Litter and Soil

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Antonio González-Rodríguez, Felipe García-Oliva, Yunuen Tapia-Torres, Alberto Morón-Cruz, Bruno Chávez-Vergara, Brenda Baca-Patiño, and Pablo Cuevas-Reyes

Published May 2019 in International Oaks No. 30: 125–130


Nutrient cycling in forest ecosystems depends mainly on litter decomposition. However, plant species differ in foliar resorption efficiency (FRE), that is, the process by which a proportion of the nitrogen (N) and phosphorus (P) contained in the leaf tissue is recovered before leaf abscission. Therefore, species differ in the quantity and quality of resources that they return to the soil, with important consequences for associated biotic communities and ecosystem processes. Previous studies have suggested that Red Oak species (section Lobatae) have a higher FRE than White Oak species (section Quercus). Therefore, an effect of oak community diversity and composition can be expected on nutrient concentration in litter and soil. To test this hypothesis, we evaluated oak community diversity and composition along 66 transects in 22 sites in central-western Mexico and quantified total N and P in litter and soil samples. Total N concentration in litter was positively correlated with total oak species richness, White Oak species richness and the proportion of White Oak species. In soil, total N showed a positive correlation with total species richness. Total P did not show a correlation with any of the descriptors of the oak community diversity and structure. We suggest that significant interactions at the level of nutrient cycling could exist between species of these two oak sections, influencing the oak community assembly process, associated organisms, and ecosystem processes.


biogeochemical cycles, ecological interactions, species coexistence, temperate deciduous forest


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