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Competition for nitrogen between adult European beech and its offspring is reduced by avoidance strategy

Competition for nitrogen between adult European beech and its offspring is reduced by avoidance strategy
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Simon J, Dannenmann M, Gasche R, Holst J, Mayer H, Papen H, Rennenberg H

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Forest Ecology and Management, 262: 105-114, 2011, doi:10.1016/j.foreco.2011.01.035

Date: 2011

Competition for nitrogen between adult European beech and its offspring is reduced by avoidance strategy

Plant growth, reproduction, and biomass allocation may be affected differently by nitrogen availability depending on tree size and age. In this context, competition for limited N may be avoided by different strategies of N acquisition between different vegetation components (i.e., seedlings, mature trees, other woody and herbaceous understorey). This study investigated in a field experiment whether the competition for N between different vegetation components in beech forests was prevented via seasonal timing of N uptake and affected by microbial N use. For this purpose, a removal approach was used to study the seasonal effects on N uptake and N metabolites in adult beech trees and beech natural regeneration, as well as soil microbial processes of inorganic N production and utilisation. We found that the competition for N between beech natural regeneration and mature beech trees was reduced by seasonal avoidance strategies (“good parenting”) of N uptake regardless of the N sources used. In spring, organic and inorganic N uptake capacity was significantly higher in beech seedlings compared to adult beech trees, whereas in autumn mature beech trees showed the highest N uptake rates. Removal of vegetation components did not result in changes in soil microbial N processes in the course of the growing season. Thus, N resources released by the removal of vegetation components were marginal. This consistency in soil microbial N processes indicates that competition between plants and soil microorganisms for N was not avoided by timing of acquisition during the vegetation period, but existed during the entire growing season. In conclusion, N nutrition in the studied forest ecosystem seems to be optimally attuned to European beech.