The possibility of using the elemental compositions of species as a tool to identify species/genotype niche remains to be tested at a global scale. We investigated relationships between the foliar elemental compositions (elementomes) of trees at a global scale with phylogeny, climate, N deposition and soil traits. We analysed foliar N, P, K, Ca, Mg and S concentrations in 23,962 trees of 227 species. Shared ancestry explained 60–94% of the total variance in foliar nutrient concentrations and ratios whereas current climate, atmospheric N deposition and soil type together explained 1–7%, consistent with the biogeochemical niche hypothesis which predicts that each species will have a specific need for and use of each bio-element. The remaining variance was explained by the avoidance of nutritional competition with other species and natural variability within species. The biogeochemical niche hypothesis is thus able to quantify species-specific tree niches and their shifts in response to environmental changes.
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All data are available at the Global Ecology Unit CREAF-CSIC-UAB (glonuteco.creaf.cat/data/).
All code is available at the Global Ecology Unit CREAF-CSIC-UAB (glonuteco.creaf.cat/data/).
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The authors thank the European Research Council Synergy (grant no. ERC-SyG-2013-610028 IMBALANCE-P), the Spanish Government (grant no. PID2019-110521GB-I00) and the Catalan Government (grant no. SGR 2017-1005). M.F.-M. is a postdoctoral fellow of the Research Foundation–Flanders.
The authors declare no competing interests.
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Map of the plot locations.
Phylogenetic diagrams of the foliar K concentration (25 112 datapoints) along the phylogeny tree obtained by using function phylosig of the package phytools in R (Revell59) representing the value structure used to estimate phylogenetic signal in the different variables. The function contmap estimates the ancestral characters at internal nodes using maximum likelihood and assuming Brownian motion as a model for trait evolution (Felsenstein63), and then interpolates ancestral condition along the branches of the tree (Revell64).
Phylogenetic diagrams of the foliar S concentration (25 112 datapoints) along the phylogeny tree obtained by using function phylosig of the package phytools in R (Revell59) representing the value structure used to estimate phylogenetic signal in the different variables. The function contmap estimates the ancestral characters at internal nodes using maximum likelihood and assuming Brownian motion as a model for trait evolution (Felsenstein63), and then interpolates ancestral condition along the branches of the tree (Revell64).
Phylogenetic diagrams of the foliar Ca concentration (25 112 datapoints) along the phylogeny tree obtained by using function phylosig of the package phytools in R (Revell59) representing the value structure used to estimate phylogenetic signal in the different variables. The function contmap estimates the ancestral characters at internal nodes using maximum likelihood and assuming Brownian motion as a model for trait evolution (Felsenstein63), and then interpolates ancestral condition along the branches of the tree (Revell64).
Phylogenetic diagrams of the foliar Mg concentration (25 112 datapoints) along the phylogeny tree obtained by using function phylosig of the package phytools in R (Revell59) representing the value structure used to estimate phylogenetic signal in the different variables. The function contmap estimates the ancestral characters at internal nodes using maximum likelihood and assuming Brownian motion as a model for trait evolution (Felsenstein63), and then interpolates ancestral condition along the branches of the tree (Revell64).
Foliar N, P and K concentrations (Mean ± S.E., % dry weight) (25 112 datapoints) of the trees growing on different soil types. Different letters represent significantly (P<0.005) disticnt values among different soil types (Soil Taxonomy soil Orders) analyzed using Bayesian phylogenetic linear mixed models with soil orders as fixed effects using the MCMCglmm package66 in R.
Extended Data Fig. 7 Foliar N/P, N/K and P/K concentrations ratios of the trees growing on different soil types.
Foliar N/P, N/K and P/K concentrations ratio (Mean ± S.E) (25 112 datapoints) of the trees growing on different soil types. Different letters represent significantly (P<0.005) disticnt values among different soil types (Soil Taxonomy soil Orders) analyzed using Bayesian phylogenetic linear mixed models with soil orders as fixed effects using the MCMCglmm package66 in R.
Representation of the European area of distribution and distribution area overlap with the corresponding sampled sites by the ICP Forest iniciative of Picea abies and Quercus robur (A), Abies alba and Quercus petraea (B) and Pinus sylvestris and Fagus sylvativa (C).
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Sardans, J., Vallicrosa, H., Zuccarini, P. et al. Empirical support for the biogeochemical niche hypothesis in forest trees. Nat Ecol Evol 5, 184–194 (2021). https://doi.org/10.1038/s41559-020-01348-1
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