Dynamics of phosphorus nutrition, allocation and growth of young beech (Fagus sylvatica L.) trees in P-rich and P-poor forest soil.

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Abstract

To investigate how long-lived forest trees cope with low soil phosphorus (P) availabilities, we characterized P nutrition of beech (Fagus sylvatica, L.) in soils from P-rich and P-poor beech forests throughout an annual growth cycle. Young trees were excavated with intact soil cores in mono-specific beech forests, kept under common garden conditions, and used for 33P labeling, analyses of P uptake, P content and biomass during five phenological stages (dormancy in winter, bud swelling in early spring, mature leaves in early and late summer, and senescent leaves in fall). Seasonal allocation patterns showed that young, emerging leaves were preferred sinks for P under P-poor conditions, thereby keeping foliar P concentrations at levels similar to those of trees grown in P-rich soil. Phosphorus concentrations in stems and roots of trees from the P-poor conditions were lower than those from P-rich conditions. Coarse roots were the main P storage tissue, supplying inorganic P to newly formed leaves, originating from the inorganic and organic P pools under low and high P conditions, respectively. Beech trees in P-poor soil exhibited net biomass increment early in the annual growth along with a strong P deficit, which was replenished by enhanced uptake in late summer and fall. Trees in P-rich soil grew until late summer, and showed a moderate P decline in organic pools and recovery late in fall, which coincided with elevated P uptake from soil. Beech in P-poor soil produced more biomass per unit of P but at a slower growth rate than those in P-rich soil, thereby exhibiting similar P-use efficiencies. Temporal decoupling of growth and P acquisition in combination with internal P trade-off between storage tissues and leaves facilitated flexible acclimation of beech to a wide range of soil P availabilities.

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