TitleEffects of nutrient addition and soil drainage on germination of N-fixing and non-N-fixing tropical dry forest tree species
Publication TypeJournal Article
Year of Publication2016
AuthorsVarma V, Iyengar SB, Sankaran M
JournalPlant Ecology
Date Published08/2016

To develop generalised predictions regarding the effects of atmospheric nitrogen (N) and phosphorus (P) deposition on vegetation communities, it is necessary to account for the impacts of increased nutrient availability on the early life history stages of plants. Additionally, it is important to determine if these responses (a) differ between plant functional groups and (b) are modulated by soil drainage, which may affect the persistence of added nutrients. We experimentally assessed seed germination responses (germination proportion and germination energy, i.e. time to germination) of commonly occurring N-fixing and non-N-fixing tropical dry forest tree species found in India to simulated N and P deposition in well-drained soils, as well as soils with impeded drainage. When soils were not allowed to drain, germination proportion declined with nutrient addition, while germination energy remained unchanged. Stronger declines in germination proportion were observed for N-fixing species. In free-draining soils, nutrient addition did not affect germination proportion in either functional group. However, we detected a trend of delayed germination with nutrient addition, especially in N-fixers. Our results suggest that nutrient deposition can lead to potential shifts in functional dominance and tree community composition of tropical dry forests in the long term through its effects on early life stages of trees, although the mechanisms underlying the observed germination responses remain unclear. Further, such effects are likely to be spatially variable across the geographic range in which tropical dry forests occur depending on soil drainage properties.