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Am J Bot. 1999 Mar;86(3):447-55.

Foliar nitrogen and phosphorus dynamics of three Chilean Nothofagus (Fagaceae) species in relation to leaf lifespan.

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  • 1Universidad de Concepcion, Campus Chillan, Chillan, Chile; and.


This study examined foliar nutrient dynamics and nutrient resorption (retranslocation) in three species of Chilean Nothofagus (Fagaceae) that differed in leaf lifespan and elevational distribution. In our central Chile study area the elevations at which these three species are most abundant increase from N. obliqua (deciduous) at low elevations to N. dombeyi at intermediate elevation and N. pumilio (deciduous) at higher elevations up to treeline. We sampled a single stand at 1680 m in which all three species co-occurred. Nothofagus dombeyi leaves were structurally heavier, with specific leaf mass approximately twice that of the two deciduous species. On a concentration basis, foliar N increased in the order N. dombeyi < N. pumilio < N. obliqua and foliar P increased in the order N. dombeyi < N. obliqua < N. pumilio. However, when the differences in specific leaf mass among species were taken into account by calculating N and P content on a leaf area basis, N. dombeyi had the greatest N and P content. N and P remained relatively constant throughout most of the 4-yr N. dombeyi leaf lifespan, then decreased prior to abscission. Nothofagus dombeyi resorbed significantly less N (44-50%) than did the two deciduous species (63-78%), both on proportional and absolute bases. In contrast, N. pumilio and N. dombeyi resorbed similar amounts of P prior to abscission (40-50%), whereas no significant resorption of P from leaves of N. obliqua was noted. We use these results to clarify the relative importance of environmental gradients associated with elevation vs. genetically fixed leaf lifespans in controlling the nutrient dynamics of these congeneric tree species.

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