Canadian Forest Service Publications

Chronic fertilization and irrigation gradually and increasingly restructure grassland communities. 2019. Kimmel, K.; Dee, L.; Tilman, D.; Aubin, I.; Boenisch, G.; Catford, J.A.; Kattge, J.; Weiher, E.; Isbell, F. Ecosphere 10(3): Article e02625.

Year: 2019

Issued by: Great Lakes Forestry Centre

Catalog ID: 39650

Language: English

CFS Availability: PDF (download)

Available from the Journal's Web site.
DOI: 10.1002/ecs2.2625

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Plain Language Summary

Adding resources such as fertilizer and irrigated water can also substantially restructure communities by shifting which species are present and what characteristics they possess, even when overall species richness remains unchanged. Understanding how plant community structure is impacted will provide insight into management considerations and whether early signs of subsequent changes can be elucidated. Here, we take advantage of a long-term study to understand how grassland plant communities respond to a decade of fertilization and irrigation treatments. Despite increased species richness in fertilized plots in the first year, treatment plots with fertilization only or irrigation only showed decreased species richness and decreased diversity in the characteristics they possess by the end of the 10 years. There were, however, no interactive effects between fertilization and irrigation. Similar to previous studies, fertilization had a continuous impact on species richness but a gradual one on community structure. Also, species gains may serve as early indicators for future community changes in the opposite direction. Overall, both chronic fertilization and irrigation tend to have continuous impacts on community structure, but the magnitude of this effect may greatly vary according to which aspect is investigated. Understanding how resource-limited communities respond to chronic resource changes can inform management strategies that help maintain community structure and function.