Background and aims: We ask how productivity responses of alpine plant communities to increased nutrient availability can be predicted from abiotic regime and initial functional type composition. Methods: We compared four Caucasian alpine plant communities (lichen heath, Festuca varia grassland, Geranium-Hedysarum meadow, snow bed community) forming a toposequence and contrasting in productivity and dominance structure for biomass responses to experimental fertilization (N, P, NP, Ca) and irrigation for 4-5 years. Results: The dominant plants in more productive communities monopolized added N and P, at the expense of their neighbors. In three out of four communities, N and P fertilizations gave greater aboveground biomass increase than N or P fertilization alone, indicating overall co-limitation of N and P, with N being most limiting. Relative biomass increase in NP treatment was negatively related to biomass in control plots across the four communities. Grasses often responded more vigorously to P, but sedges to N alone. Finally, we present one of the rare examples of a forb showing a strong N or NP response. Conclusion: Our findings will help improve our ability to predict community composition and biomass dynamics in cool ecosystems subject to changing nutrient availability as induced by climate or land-use changes. © 2012 The Author(s).