Send to

Choose Destination
Proc Natl Acad Sci U S A. 2010 Feb 2;107(5):2072-7. doi: 10.1073/pnas.0914169107. Epub 2010 Jan 19.

Plants cause ecosystem nutrient depletion via the interruption of bird-derived spatial subsidies.

Author information

Department of Biology, Stanford University, Stanford, CA 94305, USA.


Plant introductions and subsequent community shifts are known to affect nutrient cycling, but most such studies have focused on nutrient enrichment effects. The nature of plant-driven nutrient depletions and the mechanisms by which these might occur are relatively poorly understood. In this study we demonstrate that the proliferation of the commonly introduced coconut palm, Cocos nucifera, interrupts the flow of allochthonous marine subsidies to terrestrial ecosystems via an indirect effect: impact on birds. Birds avoid nesting or roosting in C. nucifera, thus reducing the critical nutrient inputs they bring from the marine environment. These decreases in marine subsidies then lead to reductions in available soil nutrients, decreases in leaf nutrient quality, diminished leaf palatability, and reduced herbivory. This nutrient depletion pathway contrasts the more typical patterns of nutrient enrichment that follow plant species introductions. Research on the effects of spatial subsidy disruptions on ecosystems has not yet examined interruptions driven by changes within the recipient community, such as plant community shifts. The ubiquity of coconut palm introductions across the tropics and subtropics makes these observations particularly noteworthy. Equally important, the case of C. nucifera provides a strong demonstration of how plant community changes can dramatically impact the supply of allochthonous nutrients and thereby reshape energy flow in ecosystems.

[Indexed for MEDLINE]
Free PMC Article

Supplemental Content

Full text links

Icon for HighWire Icon for PubMed Central
Loading ...
Support Center