Scaling of Physical Constraints at the Root-Soil Interface to Macroscopic Patterns of Nutrient Retention in Ecosystems.

TitleScaling of Physical Constraints at the Root-Soil Interface to Macroscopic Patterns of Nutrient Retention in Ecosystems.
Publication TypeJournal Article
Year of Publication2014
AuthorsGerber, S, Brookshire, ENJack
JournalThe American Naturalist
Volume183
Issue3
Pagination418 - 430
Date Published2014/03/01/
ISBN Number0003-0147
Abstract

Abstract Nutrient limitation in terrestrial ecosystems is often accompanied with maintaining a nearly closed vegetation-soil nutrient cycle. The ability to retain nutrients in an ecosystem requires the capacity of the plant-soil system to draw down nutrient levels in soils effectually such that export concentrations in soil solutions remain low. Here we address the physical constraints of plant nutrient uptake that may be limited by the diffusive movement of nutrients in soils, by the uptake at the root/mycorrhizal surface, and from interactions with soil water flow. We derive an analytical framework of soil nutrient transport and uptake and predict levels of plant available nutrient concentration and residence time. Our results, which we evaluate for nitrogen, show that the physical environment permits plants to lower soil solute concentration substantially. Our analysis confirms that plant uptake capacities in soils are considerable, such that water movement in soils is generally too small to significantly erode dissolved plant-available nitrogen. Inorganic nitrogen concentrations in headwater streams are congruent with the prediction of our theoretical framework. Our framework offers a physical-based parameterization of nutrient uptake in ecosystem models and has the potential to serve as an important tool toward scaling biogeochemical cycles from individual roots to landscapes.

URLhttp://www.jstor.org/stable/10.1086/674907
Short TitleThe American Naturalist