Legumes are characterized as keeping stable nutrient supply under nutrient-limited conditions. However, few studies examined the legumes’ stoichiometric advantages over other plants across various taxa in natural ecosystems. We explored differences in nitrogen (N) and phosphorus (P) stoichiometry of different tissue types (leaf, stem and root) between N2-fixing legume shrubs and non-N2-fixing shrubs from 299 broadleaved deciduous shrubland sites in northern China. After excluding effects of taxonomy and environmental variables, these two functional groups differed considerably in nutrient regulation. N concentrations and N:P ratios were higher in legume shrubs than in non-N2-fixing shrubs. N concentrations were positively correlated between the plants and soil for the non-N2-fixing shrubs, but not for the legume shrubs, indicating a stronger stoichiometric homeostasis in legume shrubs than in non-N2-fixing shrubs. N concentrations were positively correlated among three tissue types for non-N2-fixing shrubs, but not between leaves and non-leaf tissues for legume shrubs, demonstrating that N concentrations were more dependent among tissues for non-N2-fixing shrubs than for legume shrubs. N and P concentrations were correlated within all tissues for both functional groups, but the regression slopes were flatter for legume shrubs than non-N2-fixing shrubs, implying that legume shrubs were more P limited than non-N2-fixing shrubs. These results address significant differences in stoichiometry between legume shrubs and non-N2-fixing shrubs, and indicate the influence of symbiotic nitrogen fixation on plant stoichiometry. Overall, N2-fixing legume shrubs are higher and more stoichiometrically homeostatic in N concentrations. However, due to excess uptake of N, legumes may suffer from potential P limitation. With their N advantage, legume shrubs could be good nurse plants in restoration sites with degraded soil, but their P supply should be taken care of during management according to our results.
Guo, Y., Yang, X., Schöb, C., Jiang, Y., & Tang, Z. (2017). Legume Shrubs Are More Nitrogen-Homeostatic than Non-legume Shrubs. Frontiers in Plant Science, 8. https://doi.org/10.3389/fpls.2017.01662