Plant and Soil

, Volume 297, Issue 1–2, pp 119–125 | Cite as

Do oaks have different strategies for uptake of N, K and P depending on soil depth?

  • Hans Göransson
  • Ann-Mari Fransson
  • Ulrika Jönsson-Belyazid
Regular Article


The uptake of nutrients from deep soil layers has been shown to be important for the long-term nutrient sustainability of forest soils. When modelling nutrient uptake in forest ecosystems, the nutrient uptake capacity of trees is usually defined by the root distribution. However, this leads to the assumption that roots at different soil depths have the same capacity to take up nutrients. To investigate if roots located at different soil depths differ in their nutrient uptake capacity, here defined as the nutrient uptake rate under standardized conditions, a bioassay was performed on excised roots (<1 mm) of eight oak trees (Quercus robur L.). The results showed that the root uptake rate of 86Rb+ (used as an analogue for K+) declined with increasing soil depth, and the same trend was found for \( {\text{NH}}^{ + }_{4} \). The root uptake rate of \( {\text{H}}_{2} {\text{PO}}^{ - }_{4} \), on the other hand, did not decrease with soil depth. These different physiological responses in relation to soil depth indicate differences in the oak roots, and suggest that fine roots in shallow soil layers may be specialized in taking up nutrients such as K+ and \( {\text{NH}}^{ + }_{4} \) which have a high availability in these layers, while oak roots in deep soil layers are specialized in taking up other resources, such as P, which may have a high availability in deep soil layers. Regardless of the cause of the difference in uptake trends for the various nutrients, these differences have consequences for the modelling of the soil nutrient pool beneath oak trees and raise the question of whether roots can be treated uniformly, as has previously been done in forest ecosystem models.


Quercus robur Soil depth Nutrient uptake Root bioassay 1586Rb 32


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Copyright information

© Springer Science+Business Media B.V. 2007

Authors and Affiliations

  • Hans Göransson
    • 1
  • Ann-Mari Fransson
    • 1
  • Ulrika Jönsson-Belyazid
    • 1
  1. 1.Plant Ecology and Systematics, Department of EcologyLund UniversityLundSweden

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