A stoichiometric model of early plant primary succession

  • Author(s) / Creator(s)
  • The relative importance of plant facilitation and competition during primary succession depends on the development of ecosystem nutrient pools, yet the interaction of these processes remains poorly understood. To explore how these mechanisms interact to drive successional dynamics, we devised a stoichiometric ecosystem-level model that considers the role of nitrogen and phosphorus limitation in plant primary succession. We applied this model to the primary plant community on Mount St. Helens, Washington State, to check the validity of the proposed mechanisms. Our results show that the plant community is colimited by nitrogen and phosphorus, and they confirm previous suggestions that the presence of a nitrogen-fixing legume, Lupinus lepidus, can enhance community biomass. In addition, the observed nutrient supply rates may promote alternative successional trajectories that depend on the initial plant abundances, which may explain the observed heterogeneity in community development. The model further indicates the importance of mineralization rates and other ecosystem parameters to successional rates. We conclude that a model framework based on ecological stoichiometry allows integration of key biotic processes that interact nonlinearly with biogeochemical aspects of succession. Extension of this approach will improve the understanding of the process of primary succession and its application to ecosystem rehabilitation.

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    Article (Published)
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    © 2011 University of Chicago. This version of this article is open access and can be downloaded and shared. The original author(s) and source must be cited.
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    • Marleau, J. N., Jin, Y., Bishop, J. G., Fagan, W. F., & Lewis, M. A. (2011). A stoichiometric model of early plant primary succession. The American Naturalist, 177(2), 233-245. DOI: 10.1086/658066.