, Volume 67, Issue 4, pp 511-518

Significance of sequential leaf development for nutrient balance of the cotton sedge,Eriophorum vaginatum L.

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The sedgeEriophorum vaginatum in an interior Alaskan muskeg site produced leaves sequentially at about 1.5-month intervals. Each leaf remained active for two growing seasons. Young leaves (even those initiated late in the season) always had high concentrations of N, P, K and Mg and were low in Ca. Stems had high concentrations of nutrients, sugar, amino acid N and soluble organic P in autumn and spring but low concentrations in summer. Growth of leaves in spring was strongly supported by translocation from storage. Leaves approached their maximum nutrient pool before nutrient uptake began in late spring, one month before maximum biomass. Retranslocation of nutrients from aging leaves could support nutrient input into new, actively growing leaves as a consequence of the sequential leaf development. For instance retranslocation from aging leaves accounted for more than 90 and 85% of P and N input to new leaves appearing in early summer and 100% to leaves that appeared later. Leaching losses were negligible. Half time for decay of standing dead litter was 10 years. We suggest that sequential leaf development paired with highly efficient remobilization of nutrients from senescing leaves enables plants to recycle nutrients within the shoot and minimize dependence upon soil nutrients. This may be an important mechanism enablingEriophorum vaginatum to dominate nutrient-poor sites. This may also explain why graminoids with sequential leaf production cooccur with evergreen shrubs and dominate over forbs and deciduous shrubs in nutrient-poor sites in the boreal forest (e.g., in bogs) and at the northern limit of the tundra zone.