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Journal Articles Theoretical Ecology Year : 2017

Effects of plant evolution on nutrient cycling couple aboveground and belowground processes

Abstract

Plant strategies for nutrient acquisition and recycling are key components of ecosystem functioning. How the evolution of such strategies modifies ecosystem functioning and services is still not well understood. In the present work, we aim at understanding how the evolution of different phenotypic traits link aboveground and belowground processes, thereby affecting the functioning of the ecosystem at different scales and in different realms. Using a simple model, we follow the dynamics of a limiting nutrient inside an ecosystem. Considering trade-offs between aboveground and belowground functional traits, we study the effects of the evolution of such strategies on ecosystem properties (amount of mineral nutrient, total plant biomass, dead organic matter, and primary productivity) and whether such properties are maximized. Our results show that when evolution leads to a stable outcome, it minimizes the quantity of nutrient available (following Tilman's R* rule). We also show that considering the evolution of aboveground and belowground functional traits simultaneously, total plant biomass and primary productivity are not necessarily maximized through evolution. The coupling of aboveground and belowground processes through evolution may largely diminish predicted standing biomass and productivity (extinction may even occur) and impact the evolutionary resilience (i.e., the return time to previous phenotypic states) of the ecosystem in the face of external disturbances. We show that changes in plant biomass and their effects on evolutionary change can be understood by accounting for the links between nutrient uptake and mineralization, and for indirect effects of nutrient uptake on the amount of detritus in the system.

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hal-01602731 , version 1 (02-10-2017)

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Nicolas Loeuille, Tiphaine Le Mao, Sébastien Barot. Effects of plant evolution on nutrient cycling couple aboveground and belowground processes. Theoretical Ecology, 2017, 10 (1), pp.117-127. ⟨10.1007/s12080-016-0315-y⟩. ⟨hal-01602731⟩
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