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Keywords:

  • forest succession;
  • net primary production;
  • nitrogen;
  • nutrient limitation;
  • phosphorus;
  • resorption;
  • stoichiometry;
  • tropical rain forest

Summary

  • Nutrient resorption is a fundamental process through which plants withdraw nutrients from leaves before abscission. Nutrient resorption patterns have the potential to reflect gradients in plant nutrient limitation and to affect a suite of terrestrial ecosystem functions.
  • Here, we used a stoichiometric approach to assess patterns in foliar resorption at a variety of scales, specifically exploring how N : P resorption ratios relate to presumed variation in N and/or P limitation and possible relationships between N : P resorption ratios and soil nutrient availability.
  • N : P resorption ratios varied significantly at the global scale, increasing with latitude and decreasing with mean annual temperature and precipitation. In general, tropical sites (absolute latitudes < 23°26′) had N : P resorption ratios of < 1, and plants growing on highly weathered tropical soils maintained the lowest N : P resorption ratios. Resorption ratios also varied with forest age along an Amazonian forest regeneration chronosequence and among species in a diverse Costa Rican rain forest.
  • These results suggest that variations in N : P resorption stoichiometry offer insight into nutrient cycling and limitation at a variety of spatial scales, complementing other metrics of plant nutrient biogeochemistry. The extent to which the stoichiometric flexibility of resorption will help regulate terrestrial responses to global change merits further investigation.