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Phosphorus allocation and utilization in three grass species with contrasting response to N and P supply

Published online by Cambridge University Press:  01 October 1997

PETER RYSER
Affiliation:
Department of Plant Ecology and Evolutionary Biology, Utrecht University, P.O. Box 800.84, NL-3508 TB Utrecht, The Netherlands
BETTY VERDUYN
Affiliation:
Department of Plant Ecology and Evolutionary Biology, Utrecht University, P.O. Box 800.84, NL-3508 TB Utrecht, The Netherlands
HANS LAMBERS
Affiliation:
Department of Plant Ecology and Evolutionary Biology, Utrecht University, P.O. Box 800.84, NL-3508 TB Utrecht, The Netherlands
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Abstract

The growth of the grass Brachypodium pinnatum (L.) Beauv. in Dutch nutrient-poor chalk grasslands increases with enhanced nitrogen supply, whereas other grass species also require an enhanced phosphorus supply for a similar response (e.g. Dactylis glomerata L.), or are competitively suppressed at any increase in nutrient supply (e.g. Briza media L.). We investigated whether this interspecific variation in response to N and P supply is caused by differences in P productivity (PP), i.e. the instantaneous rate of biomass production per unit of P present in the plant. We hypothesized that PP is highest in Brachypodium pinnatum, in contrast to N productivity which is known to be the highest in Dactylis glomerata. Phosphorus productivity and its components were studied using a growth analysis with four exponential P addition rates of 0·03, 0·06, 0·09 and 0·11/0·15 mg P mg−1 P d−1.

Although Brachypodium pinnatum allocated more P to its leaf blades, it had a lower P productivity at high N and low P supply than did Dactylis glomerata. This was associated with a higher productivity per unit leaf P in Dactylis glomerata. Across all species and treatments, leaf PP showed a distinct negative correlation with P concentration per leaf area, regardless whether the variation in area-based leaf P concentration was caused by variation in leaf thickness, leaf tissue mass density or mass-based P concentration. A possible explanation for this would be a positive correlation between leaf chlorophyll concentration and P concentration, leading at high concentrations to shading within the leaf and to a low photosynthetic rate per unit leaf P. We conclude that a high PP is determined by the ability of a plant to distribute its P over a large leaf area, rather than by greater allocation of P to the leaves. Interspecific relationships for P productivity are similar to those known for N productivity.

Type
Research Article
Copyright
© Trustees of the New Phytologist 1997

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