Temperate forests have experienced surges in nitrogen supply since pre-industrial times, together with understory disruptions such as invasions and declines of formerly abundant species. Caplan et al. suggest that there may be a mechanistic link between these shifts, and show that rates of biomass production and population growth in forest shrubs are associated with nutrient foraging strategies.
Species with root traits indicative of acquisitive foraging tend to exhibit more rapid growth at both scales, whereas more nutrient conservative species have slower growth. The authors suggest that nutrient enrichment imposes an ecological filter on understory shrubs that acts in concert with other processes to shape forest community composition.