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Interactions between leaf nitrogen status and longevity in relation to N cycling in three contrasting European forest canopies

Author(s): L. Wang | A. Ibrom | J. F. J. Korhonen | K. F. Arnoud Frumau | J. Wu | M. Pihlatie | J. K. Schjoerring

Journal: Biogeosciences Discussions
ISSN 1810-6277

Volume: 9;
Issue: 7;
Start page: 9759;
Date: 2012;
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Seasonal and spatial variations in foliar nitrogen (N) parameters were investigated in three European forests with different tree species, viz. beech (Fagus sylvatica L.), Douglas fir (Pseudotsuga menziesii, Mirb., Franco) and Scots pine (Pinus sylvestris L.) in Denmark, The Netherlands and Finland, respectively. This was done in order to obtain information about functional acclimation, tree internal N conservation and its relevance for both ecosystem internal N cycling and foliar N exchange with the atmosphere. Leaf N pools generally showed much higher seasonal variability in beech trees than in the coniferous canopies. The concentrations of N and chlorophyll in the beech leaves were synchronized with the seasonal course of solar radiation implying close physiological acclimation, which was not observed in the coniferous needles. During phases of intensive N metabolism in the beech leaves, the NH4+ concentration rose considerably. This was compensated for by a strong pH decrease resulting in relatively low Γ values (ratio between tissue NH4+ and H+). The Γ values in the coniferous were even smaller than in beech, indicating low probability of NH3 emissions from the foliage to the atmosphere as an N conserving mechanism. The reduction in foliage N content during senescence was interpreted as N re-translocation from the senescing leaves into the rest of the trees. The N re-translocation efficiency (ηr) ranged from 37 to 70% and decreased with the time necessary for full renewal of the canopy foliage. Comparison with literature data from in total 23 tree species showed a general tendency for ηr to on average be reduced by 8% per year the canopy stays longer, i.e. with each additional year it takes for canopy renewal. The boreal pine site returned the lowest amount of N via foliage litter to the soil, while the temperate Douglas fir stand which had the largest peak canopy N content and the lowestηr returned the highest amount of N to the soil. These results support the hypothesis that a high N status, e.g. as a consequence of chronically high atmospheric N inputs, increases ecosystem internal over tree-bulk-tissue internal N cycling in conifer stands. The two evergreen tree species investigated in the present study behaved very differently in all relevant parameters, i.e. needle longevity, Nc and ηr, showing that generalisations on tree internal vs. ecosystem internal N cycling cannot be made on the basis of the leaf habit alone.
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