Plant traits and resource reduction for five grasses growing on a nitrogen gradient

D. Tilman, D. Wedin

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

296 Scopus citations


Agrostis scabra, Agropyron repens, Poa pratensis, Schizachyrium scoparium and Andropogon gerardi were grown in monoculture for 3 yr on an experimental nitrogen gradient. Schizachyrium and Andropogon, the species that reduced soil solution N to the lowest levels on infertile soils, had lower vegetative growth rates, higher root allocation, lower reproductive allocation, and lower tissue N than the other species. Many of these traits are associated with plants of infertile habitats, suggesting a direct link between ecophysiology, resource reduction, and distributional patterns. Differential nutrient reduction, not tolerance, may be the main mechanism favoring these traits in infertile habitats. On infertile soils, the 3 earlier successional species (Agrostis, Agropyron, Poa) allocated more to reproduction (rhizome or seed) than the later successional species, but did not reduce soil solution nitrate and ammonium to as low levels. This suggests that early successional species may be superior colonists but inferior N competitors compared to the prairie bunchgrasses. -from Authors

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)685-700
Number of pages16
Issue number2
StatePublished - Jan 1 1991


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