, Volume 137, Issue 3, pp 338–343 | Cite as

Benefit to N2-fixing alder of extending growth period at the cost of leaf nitrogen loss without resorption

  • Masaki TatenoEmail author


This study examines the adaptive role of not resorbing N in N2-fixing deciduous trees in terms of their energy balance. The autumnal growth of N2-fixing Alnus firma Sieb. et Zucc. (alder) was compared with that of the non-N2-fixing Morus bombycis Koizumi (mulberry), which resorbs leaf N. The freezing resistance of leaves of both species was −2°C. Mulberry seedlings lost their photosynthetic ability in mid-October, although the minimum temperature was still above 0°C. Thereafter, their leaves turned yellow and were gradually shed. In contrast, seedlings of the alder maintained their photosynthetic ability until mid-November, when the minimum temperature fell to the freezing resistance limit. Thereafter, their leaves were shed quickly without an autumn tint. The mulberry resorbed 48.9% of leaf N, whereas the alder resorbed hardly any. These results show that, compared with the mulberry tree, the alder extended its growth period for 1 month in return for losing leaf N without resorption. The amount of energy assimilated by the alder in the extended growth period was about six times that required for compensating for the nitrogen loss, if the compensation is dependent only on the tree's own nitrogen fixation. This surplus energy balance has probably allowed N2-fixing deciduous trees to evolve their non-N-resorbing trait.


Autumn tint Deciduous tree Freezing resistance Nitrogen economy Photosynthesis 



The author thanks Dr. F. S. Chapin III, Dr. H. Nagashima, Y. Osone, H. Taneda, and anonymous reviewers for helpful advice and useful discussions. We also thank H. Takahashi for his technical assistance.


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Copyright information

© Springer-Verlag 2003

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Nikko Botanical Garden, Graduate School of ScienceUniversity of TokyoTochigi Japan

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