Interspecific differences in maternal support in herbaceous plants: CNP contents in seeds varies to match expected nutrient limitation of seedlings ($) (Oikos)

Maternal care in plants is expressed through the investment in means for seed dispersal and germination and resource allocation to seeds. While the latter is limited by seed mass, this trait only provides a partial view of the functional importance of maternal care in plants. Notably, seed macronutrients –namely carbon, nitrogen and phosphorous– differ significantly between species, but little is known about the plant and ecological factors that shape seed nutrient content. In this paper, Mašková and Herben measured the seed nutrient content of 510 herbaceous species from Central Europe and assessed its relationship with species habitat, seed mass and plant lifespan. All nutrients exhibited a strong phylogenetic signal, meaning that closely-related species had similar seed nutrient content. Still, nonstructural carbon and nitrogen content varied significantly with species habitat, with species from nutrient-poor and highly-disturbed environments having low values for each element. This trend suggests that plants preferentially allocate nutrients that are expected to be limiting the germination environment. Additionally, small-seeded species use proportionally more of their biomass for nutrient storage than heavy-seeded ones. As a result, this research provides fascinating insights into the different factors that shape seed nutrient content and its potential ecological implications.(Summary by Carlos A. Ordóñez-Parra @caordonezparra) Oikos 10.1111/oik.08186