Defense Date


Document Type


Degree Name

Master of Science



First Advisor

Dr. Julie Zinnert


Increased nutrient availability globally has the potential to affect community functional composition of plants in nutrient limited environments, such as coastal grassland systems. Stability of these systems are threatened worldwide by urbanization, as well as effects of sea level rise and increased frequency and intensity of storms, and atmospheric N deposition, associated with climate change. Annual net primary productivity (ANPP), species composition, and functional traits (community weighted specific leaf area (CWSLA), leaf area index (LAI), growth form and photosynthetic pathway) were measured across four treatments to assess multiple resource limitation of nitrogen (N) and phosphorus (P) and functional community response in a coastal grassland on Hog Island, VA within the Virginia Coast Reserve, Long Term Ecological Research Network (LTER) applied at a rate of 10 g m-2 yr-1 Nutrient enrichment did not alter species diversity or richness. ANPP was highest in plots receiving any type of nitrogen enrichment, and was higher than expected of low nutrient systems. CWSLA was significantly higher in NP plots, and was lower than other grasslands. P treatments were not significantly different from controls. Graminoid species, specifically C4 species responded with higher ANPP than C3 forbs or graminoids within treatments. Evidence of synergistic NP effects were seen on community level resource allocation and leaf construction, but no significant species changes occurred over a 1-year time span. These results have expanded the knowledge of functional response to increased nutrient availability in an understudied, coastal grassland, which are at high risk to being lost to sea level rise and anthropogenic development and inform community assembly processes in stressful environments.


© Ashley Moulton

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