Plant Ecology

, Volume 215, Issue 3, pp 347–354 | Cite as

Nitrogen translocation between clonal mother and daughter trees at a grassland–forest boundary

  • Bradley D. Pinno
  • Scott D. Wilson


There is abundant evidence from short-term experiments using herbs that nutrients can be translocated from mother ramets to daughter ramets, but there is little long-term evidence from woody plants. Here, we examine translocation in field populations of a clonal tree over two growing seasons. We applied 15N to mothers or daughters in clones of Populus tremuloides at the northern edge of the North American Great Plains, where mother ramets form closed-canopy stands on relatively nutrient-rich soils, and daughter ramets occur nearby in relatively nutrient-poor grasslands. Unlabeled daughters in clones with labeled mothers had δ15N values significantly greater than those in unlabeled clones, confirming translocation from mothers to daughters. However, unlabeled mothers in clones with labeled daughters also had δ15N values significantly greater than those in unlabeled clones, indicating translocation from daughters to mothers. Further, the total foliage accumulation of added 15N was significantly (c. 10×) greater in mothers than in daughters, suggesting that more N was translocated from daughters to mothers, than from mothers to daughters. Thus, 15N moved both from mothers to daughters and from daughters to mothers, with net flow toward mothers. Because long-lived woody ramets in the field face nutrient competition from other ramets, interspecific neighbors, and soil microbes, the environmental availability of nutrients for uptake may be low for both mother and daughter ramets, causing translocation within a clone to be toward larger ramets with greater demand.


Aspen Heterogeneity Invasion Isotope Nitrogen Nutrient Patch Root 



We thank M. Jakubowski and K. Tollefson for field and laboratory assistance, E. Dorrepaal, R. Giesler, M. Köchy, and reviewers for comments, and the Natural Sciences and Engineering Research Council of Canada for support.

Supplementary material

11258_2014_305_MOESM1_ESM.doc (336 kb)
Supplementary material 1 (DOC 336 kb)


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Copyright information

© Springer Science+Business Media Dordrecht 2014

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Northern Forestry CentreCanadian Forest Service, Natural Resources CanadaEdmontonCanada
  2. 2.Department of BiologyUniversity of ReginaReginaCanada

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