Journal Article

Leaf- and shoot-level plasticity in response to different nutrient and water availabilities

Jennifer L. Funk, Clive G. Jones and Manuel T. Lerdau

in Tree Physiology

Volume 27, issue 12, pages 1731-1739
Published in print December 2007 | ISSN: 0829-318X
Published online December 2007 | e-ISSN: 1758-4469 | DOI:
Leaf- and shoot-level plasticity in response to different nutrient and water availabilities

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Phenotypic plasticity in response to environmental variation occurs at all levels of organization and across temporal scales within plants. However, the magnitude and functional significance of plasticity is largely unexplored in perennial species. We measured the plasticity of leaf- and shoot-level physiological, morphological and developmental traits in nursery-grown Populus deltoides Bartr. ex Marsh. individuals subjected to different nutrient and water availabilities. We also examined the extent to which nutrient and water availability influenced the relationships between these traits and productivity. Populus deltoides responded to changes in resource availability with high plasticity in shoot-level traits and moderate plasticity in leaf-level traits. Although shoot-level traits generally correlated strongly with productivity across fertilization and irrigation treatments, few leaf-level traits correlated with productivity, and the relationships depended on the resource examined. In fertilized plants, leaf nitrogen concentration was negatively correlated with productivity, suggesting that growth, rather than enhanced leaf quality, is an important response to fertilization in this species. With the exception of photosynthetic nitrogen-use efficiency, traits associated with resource conservation (leaf senescence rate, water-use efficiency and leaf mass per area) were uncorrelated with short-term productivity in nutrient- and water-stressed plants. Our results suggest that plasticity in shoot-level growth traits has a greater impact on plant productivity than does plasticity in leaf-level traits and that the relationships between traits and productivity are highly resource dependent.

Keywords: adaptive plasticity; leaf initiation; photosynthesis; Populus deltoides; productivity; relative growth rate; resource availability; seasonal patterns

Journal Article.  0 words. 

Subjects: Plant Sciences and Forestry

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