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Metal‐rich soils increase tropical tree stoichiometric distinctiveness

Trethowan, LA and Blonder, B and Kintamani, E and Girmansyah, D and Utteridge, TMA and Brearley, FQ (2021) Metal‐rich soils increase tropical tree stoichiometric distinctiveness. Plant and Soil: international journal on plant-soil relationships, 461 (1-2). pp. 579-589. ISSN 0032-079X

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Abstract

Background and aims: Ultramafic soils have high metal concentrations, offering a key opportunity to understand if such metals are strong predictors of leaf stoichiometry. This is particularly relevant for tropical forests where large knowledge gaps exist. Methods: On the tropical island of Sulawesi, Indonesia, we sampled forests on sand, limestone, mafic and ultramafic soils that present a range of soil metal concentrations. We asked how variation in 12 soil elements (metals and macronutrients) influenced leaf stoichiometry and whether stoichiometric distinctiveness (the average difference between a species and all others in a multivariate space, the axes of which are the concentrations of each leaf element) is influenced by increasing soil metal concentrations. Results: Positive correlations between corresponding elements in soils and leaves were only found for Ca and P. Noticeably, soil Cr had a negative effect upon leaf P. Whilst most species had low stoichiometric distinctiveness, some species had greater distinctiveness on stressful metal-rich ultramafic soils, generally caused by the accumulation of Al, Co, Cr or Ni. Conclusions: Our observation of increased stoichiometric distinctiveness in tropical forests on ultramafic soils indicates greater niche differentiation, and contrasts with the assumption that stressful environments remove species with extreme phenotypes.

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