, Volume 29, Issue 1, pp 171–184 | Cite as

Differences in growth characteristics and dynamics of elements in seedlings of two birch species grown in serpentine soil in northern Japan

  • Masazumi KayamaEmail author
  • Takayoshi Koike
Original Paper


Key message

Seedlings of two birch species were grown in serpentine soil, with Betula ermanii showing high tolerance.


Betula ermanii and Betula platyphylla var. japonica, two typical light-demanding-deciduous trees in northern Japan, usually invade disturbed areas. B. ermanii can invade serpentine soil and grow in it, whereas B. platyphylla var. japonica can hardly regenerate in it. Serpentine soil is distributed throughout Japan and is characterized by excessive Mg and heavy metals (Ni, Cr, and Co) which can lead to suppressed plant growth. We examined the tolerance of the two Betula species by planting seedlings in serpentine and non-serpentine (brown forest) soils. The dry mass of each organ was suppressed in both birches planted in serpentine soil, and the photosynthetic rate was reduced by accumulation of Ni. Also, uptakes of K and Ca were inhibited by accumulation of Mg, Ni, Cr and Co. B. ermanii planted in serpentine soil showed high value of net assimilation rate in the second year and maintained the photosynthetic rate from June to September. The effects of Mg, Ni, Cr and Co accumulation were small on the relative growth rate of B. ermanii. In contrast, B. platyphylla var. japonica planted in serpentine soil showed decreased photosynthetic rate in September and smaller net assimilation rate than B. ermanii at the same time. In addition, B. platyphylla var. japonica showed decreased relative growth rate, induced by accumulation of Mg in leaves and Co in roots. We conclude that B. ermanii has the high advantage of regenerating in serpentine soil.


Birch Serpentine soil Photosynthetic capacity Heavy metal Nutrient physiology 


Author contribution statement

M. K. and T. K. designed the experiments and grew seedlings of birch species. M. K. conducted the experiments, measured the photosynthetic rates, and analyzed the various nutrients. Both analyzed the data, discussed the results, and co-authored the paper.


We thank Prof. K. Sasa, Dr. Y. Akibayashi, and Prof. F. Satoh for their valuable comments on this study. We are grateful to the technical staff of Teshio Experimental Forest of Hokkaido University for their excellent technical assistance. Our thanks are due to Dr. S. Kitaoka and Ms. Y. Yanagihara for preparation of the nurseries. Analyses of plant organs were carried out at the Kyushu Research Center, Forestry and Forest Products Research Institute. We are indebted to Dr. K. Makoto and Ms. N. Aoki of the Kyushu Research Center for the analyses. For the ICP analyses of Ni, Cr, and Co concentrations, we are grateful to Dr. H. Kubotera of the National Agriculture and Food Research Organization. Thanks are also due to Mr. E. Agathokleous, Diploma of AUA, and Dr. Anthony Garrett of SCITEXT in Cambridge, UK, for English proofreading. Financial support to M. K. and T. K. by the JSPS and the Japan Science Society is gratefully acknowledged.

Conflict of interest

The source support for this study is a non-profit organization (Japan Society for the Promotion of Science, and Japan Science Society). We declare that our research has no conflict of interest.


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Copyright information

© Springer-Verlag Berlin Heidelberg 2014

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Hokkaido University Forests, FSCSapporoJapan
  2. 2.Silviculture and Forest Ecological StudiesHokkaido UniversitySapporoJapan
  3. 3.Japan International Research Center for Agricultural SciencesTsukubaJapan

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