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Plasticity of plant silicon and nitrogen concentrations in response to water regimes varies across temperate grassland species

Citation

Klotz, Marius et al. (2022), Plasticity of plant silicon and nitrogen concentrations in response to water regimes varies across temperate grassland species, Dryad, Dataset, https://doi.org/10.5061/dryad.7d7wm37zf

Abstract

Temperate grasslands exhibit strong spatial and temporal variation in water regimes. Thus, grassland plants experience potentially stressful water regimes, which may influence their tissue silicon (Si) and nitrogen (N) concentrations. Plant Si and N concentrations play important ecological roles in temperate grasslands, e.g. by influencing plant performance and herbivory, yet comparisons of species’ responses to a broad range of water regimes, including drought, waterlogging, and flooding, are lacking.

We conducted a mesocosm experiment with ten temperate grassland species of two life forms (grasses and forbs) exposed to four different soil water regimes (drought, benign control, waterlogged and flooded conditions), and analysed their Si and N concentrations.

Grasses showed lower Si concentrations under drought and flooding compared to the benign control and the highest concentrations emerged under waterlogging. Overall, plant Si responses of grasses were more uniform, while in forbs, responses varied both in direction and magnitude across species. For N concentrations, all species and life forms showed the highest concentrations under drought compared to the benign control, while half of the species exhibited decreasing concentrations under waterlogging and/or flooding. The water regimes, especially waterlogging and flooding, induced changes in species rankings of plant Si and N concentrations, with stronger shifts in forbs than in grasses.

Our results indicate that spatial and temporal variation of water regimes may influence plant Si and N concentrations in temperate grassland species. Plant Si responses to water regimes might be highly species-specific in forbs but more similar in grasses, whereas plant N responses are likely to be relatively uniform across species and life forms.

The strong plasticity in plant Si and N concentrations we observed might have pervasive consequences for ecological processes, such as herbivory.

Funding

BayCEER kick-off funding