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Nutrient Resorption from Senescing Leaves of Perennials: Are there General Patterns?

Rien Aerts
Journal of Ecology
Vol. 84, No. 4 (Aug., 1996), pp. 597-608
DOI: 10.2307/2261481
Stable URL: http://www.jstor.org/stable/2261481
Page Count: 12
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Nutrient Resorption from Senescing Leaves of Perennials: Are there General Patterns?
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Abstract

Possible patterns in nutrient resorption efficiency (% of the leaf nutrient pool resorbed) from senescing leaves of perennials were examined at both the intra- and the interspecific level. Most of the data used originated from studies with evergreen and deciduous shrubs and trees. 2 Combining all data, mean nutrient resorption efficiency was 50% for N (n = 287) and 52% for P (n = 226). N resorption efficiency of evergreen shrubs and trees (47%) was significantly lower than in deciduous shrubs and trees (54%), whereas P resorption efficiency did not differ significantly between these growth-forms (51 and 50%, respectively). Although nutrient resorption is an important nutrient conservation mechanism at the species level, it does not differ strongly between growth-forms. 3 Mean N and P concentrations in leaves of deciduous shrubs and trees were about 60% higher than in evergreen species. There were only small differences in mean resorption efficiency and nutrient concentrations in leaf litter of deciduous species were therefore much higher than in evergreens. This implies that, in comparison with deciduous species, the low nutrient concentrations in mature leaves of evergreens contribute far more to nutrient conservation than does nutrient resorption. 4 Relations between leaf nutrient status and leaf nutrient resorption were absent or very weak. Assuming that leaf nutrient status reflects nutrient availability, this implies that nutrient resorption is only weakly controlled by nutrient availability. 5 At the intraspecific level, nutrient resorption was not very responsive to increased nutrient availability. There was no response in 63% of the experiments analysed (covering 60 spp.), whereas in 32% there was a decrease in N resorption in response to increased nutrient availability. For P (37 species analysed) there was no response in 57% of the cases and in 35% of the cases P resorption decreased upon enhanced nutrient supply. Evergreen shrubs and trees showed especially low responsiveness. 6 This review shows that there are no clear nutritional controls on nutrient resorption efficiency. Future research should focus on the biochemical basis of variation in nutrient resorption efficiency and on the factors, other than nutrient availability, that control nutrient resorption efficiency.

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