, Volume 102, Issue 4, pp 467–477

Interspecific and intraspecific differences in shoot and leaf lifespan of four Carex species which differ in maximum dry matter production

  • Rien Aerts
  • Hannie de Caluwe
Original Paper

DOI: 10.1007/BF00341359

Cite this article as:
Aerts, R. & de Caluwe, H. Oecologia (1995) 102: 467. doi:10.1007/BF00341359


The effect of N supply on shoot and leaf lifespan was investigated in established stands of four herbaceous Carex species which differed in maximum dry matter production. These species were, in rank order of increasing maximum dry matter production (per unit ground area): Carex diandra≤C. rostrata<C. lasiocarpa≤C. acutiformis. The observed patterns of shoot and leaf turnover were compared with data on leaf characteristics and nitrogen use efficiency indices of these species. There was no consistent difference in shoot production (number of shoots produced per unit ground area) between species with low production and those with high production: Carex diandra (low production) and C. lasiocarpa (high production) had high shoot production, while shoot production in c. rostrata (low production) and C. acutiformis (high production) was much lower. The rank order of the mean lifespan of shoots was: C. diandra<C. rostrata≤C. lasiocarpa<C. acutiformis. Thus, the lifespan of shoots increased with increasing maximum dry matter production of these Carex species. In all species, increased N supply led to a significant reduction in shoot lifespan. The reduction of shoot lifespans in response to enhanced N supply will result in increased nutrient turnover rates in these species. There was no consistent difference in the number of leaves produced per shoot between low-production and high-production species. C. diandra and C. lasiocarpa had relatively low leaf production, while C. rostrata and C. acutiformis had relatively high leaf production per shoot. Thus, this pattern is opposite to the pattern in shoot production. The rank order of the mean lifespan of leaves was: C. diandra<C. rostrata<C. acutiformis≤C. lasiocarpa. This implies that the high-production species had longer mean leaf lifespans than the low-production species. Mean leaf lifespan was not significantly affected by enhanced N supply, except in C. diandra, where leaf lifespan decreased in response to enhanced N supply. Shoot lifespans did not show any significant relation with the specific leaf area (SLA, leaf area per unit leaf mass) or the leaf area ratio (LAR, leaf area per unit plant mass) of the species under study. There was, however, a negative relation (r2=0.71) with the nitrogen concentration in the leaves. Shoot lifespans were positively related (r2=0.79) with whole-plant nitrogen use efficiency (NUE, dry matter production per unit N-loss) and with the mean residence time of nitrogen (MRT, the average time-span during which a unit of nitrogen is present in the plant) (r2=0.78), but not with the nitrogen productivity (A, annual dry matter production per unit N in the plant). Leaf lifespan was positively related with the mean residence time of nitrogen in the plants (r2−0.70). For all the other parameters, there were no significant relations with leaf lifespan. From these results we conclude that: (1) at the stand level, shoot and leaf lifespans are positively related with maximum dry matter production; and (2) shoot and leaf lifespan are important determinants of whole-plant nitrogen economy.

Key words

Leaf lifespan Nitrogen economy Plasticity Productivity Shoot lifespan 

Copyright information

© Springer-Verlag 1995

Authors and Affiliations

  • Rien Aerts
    • 1
  • Hannie de Caluwe
    • 1
  1. 1.Department of Plant Ecology and Evolutionary BiologyUtrecht UniversityUtrechtThe Netherlands

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