, Volume 90, Issue 1, pp 80–87 | Cite as

Effects of leaf longevity and retranslocation efficiency on the retention time of nutrients in the leaf biomass of different woody species

  • A. Escudero
  • J. M. del Arco
  • I. C. Sanz
  • J. Ayala
Original Papers


A study was made of the retention times of N and P in the leaf biomass and their relationship with the retranslocation percentages and the leaf longevities in some woody species in Central Spain. The retention times of both nutrients were strongly related to the nutrient status of each species. These results suggest that a prolonged retention time is a way of increasing nutrient use efficiency in conditions of low nutrient availability. Plants can increase the retention time of nutrients in their leaf biomass by means of an increase in leaf longevity and/or by means of an increase in retranslocation efficiency. However, the effect of the retranslocation efficiency on retention times was almost negligible compared with the effect of leaf longevity. This suggests that an increase in leaf longevity is probably the best adaptation for increasing efficiency in the use of nutrients.

Key words

Nitrogen Phosphorus Nutrient use efficiency Retranslocation Leaf longevity 


Unable to display preview. Download preview PDF.

Unable to display preview. Download preview PDF.


  1. Aerts R (1990) Nutrient use efficiency in evergreen and deciduous species from heathlands. Oecologia 84:391–397Google Scholar
  2. Batschelet E (1975) Introduction to mathematics for life scientists. Springer, Berlin HeidelbergGoogle Scholar
  3. Berendse F, Oudhof H, Bol J (1987) A comparative study on nutrient cycling in wet heathland ecosystems. I. Litter production and nutrient losses from the plant. Oecologia 74:174–184Google Scholar
  4. Birk EM, Vitousek PM (1986) Nitrogen availability and nitrogen use efficiency in loblolly pine stands. Ecology 67:69–79Google Scholar
  5. Bloom AJ, Chapin FS III, Mooney HA (1985) Resource limitation in plants-an economic analogy. Annu Rev Ecol Syst 16:363–392Google Scholar
  6. Bremner JM (1960) Determination of nitrogen in soil by the Kjeldahl method. J Agric Sci 55:11–31Google Scholar
  7. Carlyle JC (1986) Nitrogen cycling in forested ecosystems. Forestry Abstracts 47:307–336Google Scholar
  8. Chabot BF, Hicks DJ (1982) The ecology of leaf life spans. Annu Rev Ecol Syst 13:229–259Google Scholar
  9. Chapin FS (1980) The mineral nutrition of wild plants. Annu Rev Ecol Syst 11:233–260Google Scholar
  10. Chapin FS, Kedrowski RA (1983) Seasonal changes in nitrogen and phosphorus fractions and autumn retranslocation in evergreen and deciduous taiga trees. Ecology 64:376–391Google Scholar
  11. Chapmann HD, Pratt PF (1973) Methods of analysis for soils, plants and waters. University of California Press, RiversideGoogle Scholar
  12. Del Arco JM, Escudero A, Garrido MV (1991) Effects of site characteristics on nitrogen retranslocation from senescing leaves. Ecology 72:701–708Google Scholar
  13. Escudero A, Garcia B, Gomez JM, Luis E (1985). The nutrient cycling in Quercus rotundifolia and Quercus pyrenaica ecosystems (“dehesas”) of Spain. Acta Oecol Oecol Plant 6:73–86Google Scholar
  14. Escudero A, Del Arco JM, Garrido MV (1991) The efficiency of nitrogen retranslocation from senescing leaves in Quercus rotundifolia Lam. ecosystems. Vegetatio (in press)Google Scholar
  15. Field C, Merino J, Mooney HA (1983) Compromises between water-use efficiency and nitrogen-use efficiency in five species of California evergreens. Oecologia 60:384–389Google Scholar
  16. Fife DN, Nambiar EKS (1982) Accumulation and retranslocation of mineral nutrients in developing needles in relation to seasonal growth of young radiata pine trees Ann Bot 50:817–829Google Scholar
  17. Goldberg DE (1982) The distribution of evergreen and deciduous trees relative to soil type: An example from the Sierra Madre, Mexico, and a general model. Ecology 63:942–951Google Scholar
  18. Hom JL, Oechel WC (1983) The photosynthetic capacity, nutrient content and nutrient use efficiency of different needle age-classes of black spruce (Picea mariana) found in interior Alaska. Can J For Res 13:834–839Google Scholar
  19. Jonasson S (1989) Implications of leaf longevity, leaf nutrient reabsorption and translocation for the resource economy of five evergreen plant species. Oikos 56:121–131Google Scholar
  20. Lajtha K, Whitford WG (1989) The effect of water and nitrogen amendments on photosynthesis, leaf demography and resource-use efficiency in Larrea tridentata, a desert evergreen shrub. Oecologia 80:341–348Google Scholar
  21. Monk CD (1966) An ecological significance of evergreenness. Ecology 47:504–505Google Scholar
  22. Mooney HA (1983) Carbon-gaining capacity and allocation patterns of mediterranean-climate plants. In: Kruger FJ, Mitchell DT, Jarvis JUM (eds) Mediterranean-type ecosystems. The role of nutrients. Springer, Berlin Heidelberg New York, pp 103–119Google Scholar
  23. Mooney HA (1986) Photosynthesis. In: Crawley MJ (ed) Plant Ecology. Blackwell Scientific Publications, Oxford, pp 345–373Google Scholar
  24. Ostman NL, Weaver GT (1982) Autumnal nutrient transfers by retranslocation, leaching and litter fall in a chestnut oak forest in southern Illinois. Can J For Res 12:40–51Google Scholar
  25. Ralhan PK, Singh SP (1987) Dynamics of nutrients and leaf mass in central Himalayan forest trees and shrubs. Ecology 68:1974–1983Google Scholar
  26. Reader RJ (1978) Contribution of overwintering leaves to the growth of three broadleaved evergreen shrubs belonging to the Ericaceae family. Can J Bot 56:1248–1261Google Scholar
  27. Ryan DF, Bormann FH (1982) Nutrient resorption in northern hardwood forests. BioScience 32:29–32Google Scholar
  28. Small E (1972) Photosynthetic rates in relation to nitrogen recycling as an adaptation to nutrient deficiency in peat bog plants. Can J Bot 50:2227–2233Google Scholar
  29. Staaf H (1982) Plant nutrient changes in beech leaves during senescence as influenced by site characteristics. Acta Oecol Oecol Plant 3:161–170Google Scholar
  30. Stachurski A, Zimka JR (1975) Methods of studying forest ecosystems: leaf area, leaf production and withdrawal of nutrients from leaves of trees. Ekol Pol 23:637–648Google Scholar
  31. Turner J (1977) Effect of nitrogen availability on nitrogen cycling in a Douglas-fir Stand. Forest Sci 23:307–316Google Scholar
  32. Vitousek PM (1982) Nutrient cycling and nutrient use efficiency. Am Nat 119:553–572Google Scholar
  33. Walkley A, Black IA (1934) An examination of the Degtjareff method for determining soil organic matter and a proposed modification of the chromic acid titration method. Soil Sci 37:29–38Google Scholar

Copyright information

© Springer-Verlag 1992

Authors and Affiliations

  • A. Escudero
    • 1
  • J. M. del Arco
    • 1
  • I. C. Sanz
    • 1
  • J. Ayala
    • 1
  1. 1.Department of Ecology. Faculty of BiologyUniversity of SalamancaSalamancaSpain

Personalised recommendations