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Nitrogen Partitioning between Resorption and Decomposition Pathways: A Trade-Off between Nitrogen Use Efficiency and Litter Decomposibility?

Rien Aerts
Oikos
Vol. 80, No. 3 (Dec., 1997), pp. 603-606
Published by: Wiley on behalf of Nordic Society Oikos
DOI: 10.2307/3546636
Stable URL: http://www.jstor.org/stable/3546636
Page Count: 4
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Since scans are not currently available to screen readers, please contact JSTOR User Support for access. We'll provide a PDF copy for your screen reader.
Nitrogen Partitioning between Resorption and Decomposition Pathways: A Trade-Off between Nitrogen Use Efficiency and Litter Decomposibility?
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Abstract

The mineral nutrition of perennials depends to a large extent on internal recycling of nutrients. During leaf senescence, N is partitioned between the resorption and the decomposition pathway. High N resorption from leaves contributes to high leaf-level nitrogen use efficiency (NUE: productivity per unit N uptake), but leads to low litter N concentrations and vice versa. Litter nitrogen concentrations are often positively related to litter decomposibility. I tested the hypothesis that there is a trade-off between leaf-level NUE and leaf litter decomposibility. In an analysis of literature data (n = 189) I found indeed that first-year decomposition constants (k-values) are negatively related to NUE. However, the percentage of variance explained by the regression model (24%) was relatively low. This was mainly due to the fact that in many low-productivity species both NUE and k were low. It is argued that this is caused by the presence of high concentrations of secondary compounds in low-productivity species. This correlates with a low NUE and a low decomposibility of the litter. The ultimate effect of this combination of low productivity (and thus low litter production), low NUE and low litter decomposibility may be a low rate of ecosystem N cycling. This may prevent the invasion of highly competitive species which are dependent on high N availability.

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