Greater differentiation in nitrogen sources is essential for co-occurring epiphytes under low-nitrogen canopy conditions
| Acquiring enough nitrogen (N) to support their life processes in nutrient-poor canopies is a crucial challenge for epiphytes. When different epiphytes coexist in the same environment, they may use different strategies to acquire N. In this study, we employed stable isotope analysis to explore N acquisition and differentiation among cooccurring epiphytes in a subtropical forest in Southwest China. We found that functional group was the most important factor influencing N and N-15 natural abundance (delta N-15) of epiphytes, and that different epiphyte groups used different N acquisition, uptake, and utilization pathways. Our analysis of the enrichment factors suggested that biological nitrogen fixation, phorophytes, canopy soil and ground soil could participate in N acquisition of epiphyte groups to varying degrees. However, epiphytes were more affected by precipitation and other canopy N sources than soil. Our structural equation models (SEMs) further showed that the potential N sources of plants and substrates affected throughfall and stemflow, thereby influenced N acquisition and preference of N forms in epiphytes. Overall, our findings indicate that there is differentiation in N sources among cooccurring epiphytes.
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| Li, S
|ENVIRONMENTAL AND EXPERIMENTAL BOTANY
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