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Phosphorus nutrition of phosphorus-sensitive Australian native plants: threats to plant communities in a global biodiversity hotspot

Lambers, H., Ahmedi, I., Berkowitz, O., Dunne, C., Finnegan, P.M., Hardy, G.E.St.J., Jost, R., Laliberté, E., Pearse, S.J. and Teste, F.P. (2013) Phosphorus nutrition of phosphorus-sensitive Australian native plants: threats to plant communities in a global biodiversity hotspot. Conservation Physiology, 1 (1).

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Abstract

South-western Australia harbours a global biodiversity hotspot on the world's most phosphorus (P)-impoverished soils. The greatest biodiversity occurs on the most severely nutrient-impoverished soils, where non-mycorrhizal species are a prominent component of the flora. Mycorrhizal species dominate where soils contain slightly more phosphorus. In addition to habitat loss and dryland salinity, a major threat to plant biodiversity in this region is eutrophication due to enrichment with P. Many plant species in the south-western Australian biodiversity hotspot are extremely sensitive to P, due to a low capability to down-regulate their phosphate-uptake capacity. Species from the most P-impoverished soils are also very poor competitors at higher P availability, giving way to more competitive species when soil P concentrations are increased. Sources of increased soil P concentrations include increased fire frequency, run-off from agricultural land, and urban activities. Another P source is the P-fertilizing effect of spraying natural environments on a landscape scale with phosphite to reduce the impacts of the introduced plant pathogen Phytophthora cinnamomi, which itself is a serious threat to biodiversity. We argue that alternatives to phosphite for P. cinnamomi management are needed urgently, and propose a strategy to work towards such alternatives, based on a sound understanding of the physiological and molecular mechanisms of the action of phosphite in plants that are susceptible to P. cinnamomi. The threats we describe for the south-western Australian biodiversity hotspot are likely to be very similar for other P-impoverished environments, including the fynbos in South Africa and the cerrado in Brazil.

Publication Type: Journal Article
Murdoch Affiliation: Centre for Phytophthora Science and Management
School of Veterinary and Life Sciences
Publisher: Oxford University Press
Copyright: © The Author 2013
Notes: This is an Open Access article distributed under the terms of the Creative Commons Attribution License (http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/3.0/), which permits unrestricted distribution and reproduction in any medium, provided the original work is properly cited.
URI: http://researchrepository.murdoch.edu.au/id/eprint/18235
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