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Keywords:

  • Carbon sequestration;
  • Interdisciplinary;
  • Land use;
  • Lowland river;
  • Mountains;
  • Nature management;
  • Tidal wetlands

Abstract

Question

How does the interaction between silicon (Si) and vegetation affect local and global ecological processes, higher levels of ecological organization, and terrestrial- and watershed-scale Si fluxes?

Location

We selected several ecosystems throughout the world, from river headwaters to estuaries, being examples of (i) terrestrial vegetation, (ii) aquatic and floodplain vegetation, and (iii) tidal wetland vegetation.

Methods

We provide examples of the importance of linking Si use by terrestrial and aquatic vegetation, to larger-scale Si flux consequences towards and through rivers. Cross-disciplinary studies achieve the best understanding of vegetation effects on the global Si cycle, and the role of Si as a plant functional trait.

Conclusion

Si use by plants has not always received the research attention of other elements. Yet, today the importance of Si for plant functioning is slowly becoming better understood. Silicon is a crucial element for many plant species, being important for decomposition processes, plant competitiveness and stress tolerance. The inclusion by vegetation scientists of Si uptake as a plant functional trait is important to assess links between plant physiology, plant distribution and plant tolerance to environmental changes, but also to understand the role of vegetation on Si fluxes through the watershed. However, lack of knowledge regarding the biological control of the Si cycle hinders accurate quantification. Only a concerted effort bringing scientists together from a broad array of disciplines will provide this new direction for research on vegetation–Si cycling.