Biomass allocation can exert a great influence on plant resource acquisition and nutrient use. However, the role of biomass allocation strategies in shaping plant community composition under nutrient limitations remains poorly addressed.  

Yan Bangguo of Institute of Mountain Hazards and Environment, Chinese Academy of Sciences (IMHE) and his team hypothesized that species-specific allocation strategies can affect plant adaptation to nutrient limitations, resulting in species turnover and changes in community-level biomass allocations across nutrient gradients. They measured species abundance and the concentrations of nitrogen and phosphorus in leaves and soil nutrients in an arid-hot grassland. They quantified species-specific allocation parameters for stems vs leaves based on allometric scaling relationships. Species-specific stem vs leaf allocation parameters were weighted with species abundances to calculate the community-weighted means driven by species turnover. They found that the community-weighted means of biomass allocation parameters were significantly related to the soil nutrient gradient as well as to leaf stoichiometry, indicating that species-specific allocation strategies can affect plant adaptation to nutrient limitations in the studied grassland. Species that allocate less to stems than leaves tend to dominate nutrient-limited environments.  

The results support the hypothesis that species-specific allocations affect plant adaptation to nutrient limitations. The allocation trade-off between stems and leaves has the potential to greatly affect plant distribution across nutrient gradients. 

The research achievements have been published in New Phytologist 211(2016)1232-1240.