, Volume 7, Issue 2, pp 67-77

Growth, nutrition and gas exchange of Pinus resinosa following artificial defoliation

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Summary

In three experiments, red pine (Pinus resinosa Ait.) seedlings and trees were subjected to artificial defoliations of varying intensities and subsequent growth, gas exchange and nutritional responses were monitored. In Experiment 1, 2-year-old seedlings received 0, 1 or 2 50% defoliations during a single growing season and were maintained in 1 of 3 low nutrient supply treatments. In Experiment 2, response of 4-year-old seedlings was monitored in the year following 0, 25, 50 or 75% defoliation, while in Experiment 3, response of 11-year-old trees was measured 1 year after being defoliated by 0, 33 or 66%. Regardless of intensity of defoliation, or plant size, clipped plants made qualitatively similar allocational and metabolic adjustments over time. First, leaf diffusive conductance and rates of net photosynthesis were stimulated, especially by light to intermediate defoliation. However, there was no effect of defoliation on foliar nitrogen concentration, and elevated gas exchange rates apparently resulted from altered root-shoot dynamics. Second, allocation of new biomass was preferentially shifted towards foliage at the expense of roots, gradually restoring (but undershooting or overshooting) the ratio of foliage: roots of control plants. During the period when foliage: root balance was being restored, the stimulation of needle gas exchange rates disappeared. Plants defoliated by 25% overcompensated in terms of whole plant growth (were larger at harvest than controls), due to shifts in allocation and enhanced photosynthesis. Defoliated plants also stored a proportionally greater share of their carbohydrate reserves in roots than did control plants, even 1 year after clipping.