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Tree Physiol. 1994 Jan;14(1):75-88.

Relationships between nutrient supply, nitrogen partitioning and growth in young Sitka spruce (Picea sitchensis).

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Macaulay Land Use Research Institute, Craigiebuckler, Aberdeen AB9 2QJ, Scotland, U.K.


Budget studies have shown that internal cycling may contribute a large proportion of the annual nutrient supply required to support new growth in trees. Use of budgets to quantify internal cycling only quantifies the net transfer of nutrients within the plant. Differential partitioning of remobilized nutrients and current nutrient uptake could lead to errors in the interpretation of results from these studies. We have quantified the dynamic relationships among tree growth, nutrient uptake and internal cycling by labeling the current uptake of N in trees that received contrasting amounts of nutrient. Two-year-old seedlings of Sitka spruce (Picea sitchensis (Bong.) Carr.) were grown in sand culture in a greenhouse for one year. The trees received nutrients in a balanced solution at either a high (high-RAR) or a low (low-RAR) relative addition rate throughout the experiment. Current N uptake was labeled with (15)N from April 13 to July 25. Thereafter, trees were re-potted in clean sand and unlabeled N applied until November 13. Overall growth was sustained for approximately 10 weeks before treatment effects were observed. Initially, no differences in the partition of growth or remobilized N occurred, although partition of current uptake favored the roots of plants in the low-RAR treatment. After 6 weeks, the partition of both growth and remobilized N altered in favor of roots of plants in the low-RAR treatment. Nutrient supply had no effect on the amount or rate of N remobilization. No evidence was found to suggest that N taken up in the current season and partitioned to preexisting shoots or roots is remobilized late in the season to support growth of new shoots. However, some trees in the high-RAR treatment exhibited a second flush of growth later in the season that was partially sustained by remobilization of (15)N from current shoots formed earlier in the season. Use of (15)N demonstrated differential partitioning of current uptake and remobilized N. The results highlight the limitations of simple budget studies for quantifying internal cycling.


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