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Tree Physiol. 2001 Jan;21(1):9-17.

Internal remobilization of carbohydrates, lipids, nitrogen and phosphorus in the Mediterranean evergreen oak Quercus ilex.

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  • 1Centre d'Ecologie Fonctionelle et Evolutive, CNRS, Montpellier, France.


Remobilization of internal resources is an important mechanism enabling plants to be partly independent of external nutrient availability. We assessed resource remobilization during the growing period in woody and foliar tissues of leafy branches of mature evergreen Mediterranean oak (Quercus ilex L.) at three field sites. We compared nonstructural carbohydrates, lipids, nitrogen and phosphorus pools in leaves and stems before bud burst (March) and at the end of the growing period (July). We also experimentally defoliated leafy branches to determine the storage function of old leaves. Changes in pools of carbon compounds in leaves and stems during spring and in response to defoliation indicated that foliar and woody tissues could provide carbon to support shoot growth. Independently of stem age, soluble sugar and lipid pools decreased significantly during spring. Changes in leaf pools between March and July involved all compounds measured except starch and were accompanied by a 5% decrease in mean leaf biomass. During the same period, 15% of the nitrogen and 25% of the phosphorus were removed from leaves. In contrast, woody tissues did not remobilize nitrogen or phosphorus. Our results support earlier hypotheses that leaves of evergreen species have a primary role in resource remobilization.

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