Silicon supply modifies C:N:P stoichiometry and growth of Phragmites australis


  • Editor
    M. Hawkesford

J. Schaller, Institute of General Ecology and Environmental Protection, University of Technology Dresden, Pienner Str. 19, PF 1117, 01737 Tharandt, Germany.


Silicon is a non-essential element for plant growth. Nevertheless, it affects plant stress resistance and in some plants, such as grasses, it may substitute carbon (C) compounds in cell walls, thereby influencing C allocation patterns and biomass production. How variation in silicon supply over a narrow range affects nitrogen (N) and phosphorus (P) uptake by plants has also been investigated in some detail. However, little is known about effects on the stoichiometric relationships between C, N and P when silicon supply varies over a broader range. Here, we assessed the effect of silicon on aboveground biomass production and C:N:P stoichiometry of common reed, Phragmites australis, in a pot experiment in which three widely differing levels of silicon were supplied. Scanning electron microscopy (SEM) showed that elevated silicon supply promoted silica deposition in the epidermis of Phragmites leaves. This resulted in altered N:P ratios, whereas C:N ratios changed only slightly. Plant growth was slightly (but not significantly) enhanced at intermediate silicon supply levels but significantly decreased at high levels. These findings point to the potential of silicon to impact plant growth and elemental stoichiometry and, by extension, to affect biogeochemical cycles in ecosystems dominated by Phragmites and other grasses and sedges.