Allocation and the transient dynamics of succession on poor soils

S. K. Gleeson, David Tilman

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178 Scopus citations


Biomass and N allocation to leaf, root, stem and reproduction was determined in a 35-field chronosequence that spans the first 60 yr of secondary succession on a Minnesota sand plain. Biomass in leaf and root increased during succession, but reproductive biomass declined, and that in stem remained constant. Because root biomass increased twice as rapidly as leaf biomass, the proportion of total biomass in root increased during succession, whereas that in leaf, reproduction, and stem declined. Biomass allocation was determined on a species-by-species basis for 46 species common at different times during succession. This showed a similar pattern of increasing proportional root allocation and declining proportional reproductive and stem allocation during succession. These changes were accompanied by an increase in total soil N and a decrease in light penetration to the soil surface during succession. Increasing root allocation and decreasing reproductive allocation suggest that succession on these nutrient-poor soils is the transient dynamics of colonization and competitive displacement, with later successional species being superior N competitors because of higher root allocation. Allocation trade-offs between root stem, leaf and seed can lead to initial dominance by species with high seed and leaf allocation, presumably because of greater colonization and/or maximal growth rates. Thus, this succession differs markedly from successions on rich soils, for which stem allocation is increasingly important. -from Authors

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)1144-1155
Number of pages12
Issue number3
StatePublished - 1990


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