, Volume 160, Issue 1-4, pp 95-108

Differential reaction of Pinus sylvestris, quercus robur and Q. petraea trees to nitrogen and sulfur pollution

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Establishment of the Nitrogen Fertilizer Factory in Pulawy, Poland (NFFP) in 1966 resulted in contamination of the environment with nitrogen and sulfur compounds. As a result, radial stem growth declined in Pinus sylvestris and increased in Quercus robur. In this study we explored possible causal agents responsible for differences in pollution response among P. sylvestris, Q. robur and Q. petraea species, including differential uptake of nitrogen oxide pollutants by foliage and nutrient imbalances. We compared trees growing in the vicinity of the NFFP and a control area and found that Q. robur leaves were characterized by a relatively smaller N increase than those of P. sylvestris. It is possible that relatively high accumulation of N by pine could cause metabolic dysfunction in that species. However, differences in the concentration of nitrogen or activity of nitrate reductase did not sufficiently explain observed growth differences among the studied species. It is likely that among the factors contributing to the increased growth of oaks after the establishment of NFFP there is the rapid decline and mortality of pollution-sensitive Scots pine trees, easing competition for light and nutrients in the remaining Quercus trees.