Chin J Plant Ecol ›› 2023, Vol. 47 ›› Issue (12): 1646-1657.DOI: 10.17521/cjpe.2022.0449

• Research Articles • Previous Articles     Next Articles

Altitudinal patterns of nutrient limiting characteristics of Abies fargesii var. faxoniana forest based on leaf and soil enzyme stoichiometry in western Sichuan, China

HE Xi1,2, FENG Qiu-Hong3, ZHANG Pei-Pei1,*(), YANG Han1,2, DENG Shao-Jun1,2, SUN Xiao-Ping4, YIN Hua-Jun1   

  1. 1China-Croatia “Belt and Road” Joint Laboratory on Biodiversity and Ecosystem Services, CAS Key Laboratory of Mountain Ecological Restoration and Bioresource Utilization, Ecological Restoration and Biodiversity Conservation Key Laboratory of Sichuan Province, Chengdu Institute of Biology, Chinese Academy of Sciences, Chengdu 610041, China
    2University of Chinese Academy of Sciences, Beijing 100049, China
    3Sichuan Academy of Forestry, Sichuan Wolong Forest Ecosystem Research Station, Chengdu 610081, China
    4Aba State Owned Forest Protection Bureau, Aba, Sichuan 624000, China
  • Received:2022-11-08 Accepted:2023-03-13 Online:2023-12-20 Published:2023-03-13
  • Contact: *(
  • Supported by:
    Chinese Academy of Sciences “Light of the West” Cross-team(xbzg-zdsys-202112);Second Tibetan Plateau Scientific Expedition and Research Program (STEP)(2019QZKK0301);National Natural Science Foundation of China(32171757);National Natural Science Foundation of China(32201531);China Postdoctoral Science Foundation(2021M703133)


Aims Nitrogen (N) and phosphorus (P) nutrient availability is a key factor governing forest productivity and carbon sequestration. However, scientific knowledge on the nutrient limitation in forest ecosystems under variable environments is still lacked. The mountain ecosystems, characterized by the dramatical changes in multiple environmental factors along increasing altitude such as climate, vegetation and soil properties, provide a natural experiment platform for understanding forest nutrient limitation and its drivers.
Methods In this study, we examined the nutrient limitation of a typical subalpine coniferous forest (Abies fargesii var. faxoniana forest) along an altitudinal gradient (from 2 850 m to 3 200 m) in the southeastern Qingzang Plateau, by simultaneous detection of above-ground leaf N, P status and underground microorganisms extracellular stoichiometry, and analyzing the changes of forest nutrient limitation and the main driving factors along the altitude.
Important findings The results showed that: 1) as altitude increases, the concentration of leaf N and P decreased, while leaf N:P increased from 12.33 to 15.00, indicating a shift from N limitation to N-P co-limitation and an enhancement of P limitation with increasing altitude. (2) Vector model analysis showed that the vector angles of microbial extracellular enzyme stoichiometry were all exceed 45° at different altitudes, and as altitude increases, the vector angle showed an increasing trend, indicating that microorganisms were limited by P and the P limitation increases with altitude. (3) Temperature is the dominant factor driving nutrient limitation of Abies fargesii var. faxoniana forest. Collectively, both leaf and soil microbial nutrient evidence indicated that an enhancement of P limitation in subalpine coniferous forests with increasing altitudes in western Sichuan. This finding could provide an important theoretical basis for guiding forest nutrient adaptive management in subalpine coniferous ecosystems under the scenarios of global climate change.

Key words: altitude, nutrient limitation, N:P, soil extracellular enzyme stoichiometry, subalpine coniferous forest