Needle CO2 exchange, structure and defense traits in relation to needle age in Pinus heldreichii Christ - A relict of Tertiary flora

Jacek Oleksyn, Mark G. Tjoelker, Gabriela Lorenc-Plucińska, Agata Konwińska, Roma Zytkowiak, Piotr Karolewski, Peter B. Reich

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38 Scopus citations


Pinus heldreichii Christ is a long-lived, slow-growing Tertiary relict from the Balkans. In this study we evaluated the physiological characteristics of eight needle-age classes of P. heldreichii grown at the Arboretum of the Institute of Dendrology in Kornik, Poland. At the end of the growing season, current-year foliage had the highest rates of mass-based light-saturated net photosynthesis (A(sat)) of 33.5 nmol CO2 · g-1 · s-1. A(sat) decreased with needle age, but older needle classes retained from approximately 62 to 26% of the current needles' rate. The relationship between leaf N and chlorophyll a concentration among all needle-age classes was highly significant (r = 0.96, P = 0.0006). The variation in A(sat) of 1- to 7-year-old needles was linearly related to needle N concentration (r = 0.98, P = 0.0001). Needle dark respiration rates among these needle age classes ranged from 0.8 to 2.2 nmol · g-1 · s-1 and decreased with needle age and nitrogen concentration. Total phenols and glucose concentrations increased linearly with needle age. A similar pattern was observed in acid buffering capacity and the pH of tissue homogenates. The water content ranged from 62% for the current needles to 51% for the 6-year-old needles. Greater investment in leaf structural tissue and increased chemical defense is associated with higher structural cost of older needles and may reduce their photosynthetic activity. Significant declines in water and nitrogen content with needle age and an increase in content of phenolics is most likely a defense adaptation of P. heldreichii related to the species' long-lived leaves.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)82-89
Number of pages8
JournalTrees - Structure and Function
Issue number2
StatePublished - Dec 2 1997

Bibliographical note

Funding Information:
AcknowledgementsmmThis research was supported by the Polish Academy of Sciences and the University of Minnesota. M. G. Tjoelker was financed by the Research Grant from the Fulbright Foundation (USA).


  • Chlorophyll
  • Nitrogen
  • Photosynthesis
  • Pinus leucodermis
  • Respiration


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