Latitudinal patterns of terrestrial phosphorus limitation over the globe

Enqing Hou, Dazhi Wen, Lifen Jiang, Xianzhen Luo, Yuanwen Kuang, Xiankai Lu, Chengrong Chen, Keanan T. Allen, Xianjin He, Xingzhao Huang, Yiqi Luo

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

61 Scopus citations


Phosphorus limitation on terrestrial plant growth is being incorporated into Earth system models. The global pattern of terrestrial phosphorus limitation, however, remains unstudied. Here, we examined the global-scale latitudinal pattern of terrestrial phosphorus limitation by analysing a total of 1068 observations of aboveground plant production response to phosphorus additions at 351 forest, grassland or tundra sites that are distributed globally. The observed phosphorus-addition effect varied greatly (either positive or negative), depending significantly upon fertilisation regime and production measure, but did not change significantly with latitude. In contrast, phosphorus-addition effect standardised by fertilisation regime and production measure was consistently positive and decreased significantly with latitude. Latitudinal gradient in the standardised phosphorus-addition effect was explained by several mechanisms involving substrate age, climate, vegetation type, edaphic properties and biochemical machinery. This study suggests that latitudinal pattern of terrestrial phosphorus limitation is jointly shaped by macro-scale driving forces and the fundamental structure of life.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)1420-1431
Number of pages12
JournalEcology Letters
Issue number7
StatePublished - Jul 2021


  • Aboveground production
  • climate
  • fertilization regime
  • latitudinal gradient
  • phosphorus limitation

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Ecology, Evolution, Behavior and Systematics


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