Plant Ecology

, Volume 183, Issue 2, pp 305–314

Low leaf N and P resorption contributes to nutrient limitation in two desert shrubs

Article

DOI: 10.1007/s11258-005-9041-z

Cite this article as:
Drenovsky, R. & Richards, J. Plant Ecol (2006) 183: 305. doi:10.1007/s11258-005-9041-z

Abstract

Both water and nutrients are limiting in arid environments, and desert plants have adapted to these limitations through numerous developmental and physiological mechanisms. In the Mono Basin, California, USA, co-dominant Sarcobatus vermiculatus and Chrysothamnus nauseosus ssp. consimilis are differentially N and P limited. We hypothesized that low leaf N resorption contributes to N-limitation in Sarcobatus and that low leaf P resorption contributes to P-limitation in Chrysothamnus. As predicted, Sarcobatus resorbed proportionally 1.7-fold less N than Chrysothamnus, but reduced leaf P in senescent leaves to lower levels than Chrysothamnus (8.0–10.8-fold lower based on leaf area or mass, respectively), consistent with N, but not P limitations in Sarcobatus. Again, as predicted, Chrysothamnus resorbed proportionally 2.0-fold less P than Sarcobatus yet reduced leaf N in senescent leaves to lower levels than Sarcobatus (1.8–1.3-fold lower based on leaf area or mass, respectively), consistent with P, but not N limitations in Chrysothamnus. Leaf N and P pools were approximately 50% of aboveground pools in both species during the growing season, suggesting leaf resorption can contribute significantly to whole plant nutrient retention. This was consistent with changes in leaf N vs. P concentration as plants grew from seedlings to adults. Our results support the conclusion that N-limitation in Sarcobatus and P-limitation in Chrysothamnus are in part caused by physiological (or other) constraints that prevent more efficient resorption of N or P, respectively. For these species, differential nutrient resorption may be a key physiological component contributing to their coexistence in this saline, low resource habitat.

Keywords

Chrysothamnus nauseosus ssp. consimilisNitrogenPhosphorusResorption efficiencyResorption proficiencySarcobatus vermiculatus

Copyright information

© Springer Science+Business Media, Inc. 2006

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Department of Land, Air and Water ResourcesUniversity of California DavisDavisUSA
  2. 2.Biology DepartmentJohn Carroll UniversityUniversity HeightsUSA