Time-dependent, species-specific effects of N:P stoichiometry on grassland plant growth

Y. Fujita, P.C. de Ruiter, M.J. Wassen, G.W. Heil

Research output: Contribution to journalArticleAcademicpeer-review

48 Citations (Scopus)


N and P have different eutrophication effects on grassland communities, yet the underlying mechanisms are poorly understood. To examine plant growth in response to the varying (relative) supply of N and P, we conducted a two-year greenhouse experiment. Five grasses and three herbs were grown with three N:P supply ratios at two overall nutrient supply levels. During the first year the plant growth was relatively low at both high and low N:P supply ratios, whereas during the second year the growth was especially low at a high N:P supply ratio. This second-year low growth was attributed to the high root death rate, which was influenced by a high N:P supply ratio rather than by the nutrient supply level. Species responded differently, especially in P uptake and loss at a high N:P supply ratio. Each species seemed to have a different strategy for P limitation, e.g. an efficient P uptake or a high P resorption rate. Species typical of P-limited grasslands had neither better P uptake nor better P retention at a high N:P supply ratio. This study quantitatively demonstrates an increased plant root death triggered by strong P limitation. This finding indicates a possible extra effect of N eutrophication on ecosystem functioning via changed N:P stoichiometry
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)99-112
JournalPlant and Soil
Issue number1-2
Publication statusPublished - 2010


  • nutrient availability
  • wetland graminoids
  • 2nd-year growth
  • phosphorus
  • nitrogen
  • fens
  • acquisition
  • budgets
  • limitation
  • vegetation


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