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Ann Bot. 2004 Jun;93(6):671-80. Epub 2004 Apr 7.

Seasonal branch nutrient dynamics in two Mediterranean woody shrubs with contrasted phenology.

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  • 1Instituto Pirenaico de Ecología (CSIC), PO Box 202, 50080 Zaragoza, Spain.



Mediterranean woody plants have a wide variety of phenological strategies. Some authors have classified the Mediterranean phanaerophytes into two broad phenological categories: phenophase-overlappers (that overlap resource-demanding activities in a short period of the year) and phenophase-sequencers (that protract resource-demanding activities throughout the year). In this work the impact of both phenological strategies on leaf nutrient accumulation and retranslocation dynamics at the level of leaves and branches was evaluated. Phenophase-overlappers were expected to accumulate nutrients in leaves throughout most of the year and withdraw them efficiently in a short period. Phenophase-sequencers were expected to withdraw nutrients progressively throughout the year, without long accumulation periods.


To test this hypothesis, variations in phenology and leaf NPK in the crown of a phenophase-overlapper Cistus laurifolius and a phenophase-sequencer Bupleurum fruticosum were monitored monthly during 2 years.


Changes in nutrient concentration at the leaf level were not clearly related with the different phenologies. Nitrogen and phosphorous resorption efficiencies were lower in the phenophase-overlapper, and accumulation-retranslocation seasonality was similar in both species. Changes in the branch nutrient pool agreed with the hypothesis that the phenophase-overlapper accumulated nutrients from summer until the bud burst of the following spring, recovering a large nutrient pool during massive leaf shedding. The phenophase-sequencer did not accumulate nutrients from autumn until early spring, achieving lower nutrient recovery during spring leaf shedding.


It is concluded that phenological demands influence branch nutrient cycling. This effect is easier to detect by assessing changes in the branch nutrient pool rather than changes in the leaf nutrient concentration.

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