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Ozone impairs autumnal resorption of nitrogen from birch (Betula pendula) leaves, causing an increase in whole-tree nitrogen loss through litter fall

Journal article
Authors Johan Uddling
Per Erik Karlsson
A. Glorvigen
Gun Selldén
Published in Tree Physiology
Volume 26
Issue 1
Pages 113-120
ISSN 0829-318X
Publication year 2006
Published at Department of Plant and Environmental Sciences
Pages 113-120
Language en
Keywords abscission, nitrogen resorption efficiency, photosynthesis, senescence, nutrient resorption, ultrastructural-changes, leaf senescence, growing seasons, exposure, seedlings, dynamics, forest, plants, pine
Subject categories Biological Sciences


Saplings of one half-sib family of birch, Betula pendula Roth, were exposed to three ozone concentrations (non-filtered air (NF); non-filtered air + 10-20 nmol O-3 mol(-1) (NF+); non-filtered air + 40-60 nmol O-3 mol(-1) (NF++)) in open-top chambers during two growing seasons from 1997 to 1998. Shed leaves were collected regularly during both growing seasons and, in 1998, the dry mass (DM) and nitrogen (N) concentrations ([N]) of the shed leaves were measured to quantify the total amount of N lost through litter fall. Dry mass and [N] were also determined in mid-August for attached, mature and non-senescent leaves, in order to estimate autumnal leaf N resorption efficiency and proportional leaf DM decrease. Net photosynthetic capacity was measured during August and September 1998, in a population of leaves that emerged in mid-July. Photosynthesis declined with increasing leaf age in the NF++ treatment, whereas it remained high throughout the measurement period in the NF and NF+ treatments. In both years, leaves abscised prematurely in the NF++ treatment, whereas this effect was only significant in 1998 in the NF+ treatment. There was a strong linear relationship between proportional leaf shedding and daylight ozone exposure above a threshold of 40 nmol mol(-1) (daylight AOT40) during the growing season. The resorption of N was significantly impaired by ozone, and the smaller autumnal decrease in leaf DM in elevated ozone concentrations suggested that the bulk resorption of leaf DM was also inhibited. Nitrogen resorption efficiencies were 81. 73 and 63% and leaf mass decreases were 45, 36 and 30% in the NF, NF+ and NF++ treatments, respectively. Compared with the NF treatment, total N loss through litter fall was increased by 16 and 122% in the NF+ and NF++ treatments, respectively. We conclude that ozone impaired N resorption from birch leaves before abscission, causing a substantial increase in whole-tree N loss through litter fall.

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