Species richness-productivity patterns differ between N, P and K limited wetlands

Harry Olde Venterink, Martin J. Wassen, A (ton). W.m. Verkroost, Peter C. De Ruiter

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329 Citations (Scopus)


We evaluated whether the kind of nutrient limitation (N, P, or K) may affect species richness-productivity patterns and subsequently may explain variation in species richness and in richness of threatened species. We present a data set from previous studies in wetlands in Poland, Belgium, and The Netherlands and examine species richness-productivity patterns for vascular plants in all 150 sites together as well as for N-, P-, and K-limited sites separately. The kind of nutrient limitation was assessed by N:P, N:K, and K:P ratios in the vegetation. Critical values for these ratios were derived from a literature review of fertilization experiments. The kind of nutrient limitation influenced species richness-productivity patterns in our 150 sites through large differences in productivity. P (co)-limitation occurred only at low productivity, K (co)-limitation up to intermediate productivity, and N limitation along the entire productivity gradient. There was a decreasing trend in species richness with increasing productivity for K (co)-limited sites, whereas for both the N-limited sites and P (co)-limited sites a sort of "filled hump-shaped curve" was observed. The species richness-productivity relationship for threatened species was restricted to a much narrower productivity range than that for all species. Richness of threatened species was higher in P (co)-limited sites than in N-limited sites, suggesting that increased P availabilities in wetlands may be particularly important in causing disappearance of threatened species in western Europe. The role of nutrient limitation in species richness-productivity relationships not only reveals mechanisms that may explain variation in species richness and occurrence of threatened species, but it also may be important for nature management practice.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)2191-2199
Number of pages9
Publication statusPublished - 2003


  • N:P stoichiometry


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