Nutrient conservation increases with latitude of origin in European Pinus sylvestris populations

J. Oleksyn, P. B. Reich, R. Zytkowiak, P. Karolewski, M. G. Tjoelker

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

156 Scopus citations


Nutrient availability varies across climatic gradients, yet intraspecific adaptation across such gradients in plant traits related to internal cycling and nutrient resorption remains poorly understood. We examined nutrient resorption among six Scots pine (Pinus sylvestris L.) populations of wide-ranging origin grown under common-garden conditions in Poland. These results were compared with mass-based needle N and P for 195 Scots pine stands throughout the species' European range. At the common site, green needle N (r2=0.81, P=0.01) and P (r2=0.58, P=0.08) concentration increased with increasing latitude of population origin. Resorption efficiency (the proportion of the leaf nutrient pool resorbed during senescence) of N and P of Scots pine populations increased with the latitude of seed origin (r2≥0.67, P≤0.05). The greater resorption efficiency of more northerly populations led to lower concentrations of N and P in senescent leaves (higher resorption proficiency) than populations originating from low latitudes. The direction of change in these traits indicates potential adaptation of populations from northern, colder habitats to more efficient internal nutrient cycling. For native Scots pine stands, results showed greater nutrient conservation in situ in cold-adapted northern populations, via extended needle longevity (from 2 to 3 years at 50°N to 7 years at 70°N), and greater resorption efficiency and proficiency, with their greater resorption efficiency and proficiency having genotypic roots demonstrated in the common-garden experiment. However, for native Scots pine stands, green needle N decreased with increasing latitude (r2=0.83, P=0.0002), and P was stable other than decreasing above 62°N. Hence, the genotypic tendency towards maintenance of higher nutrient concentrations in green foliage and effective nutrient resorption, demonstrated by northern populations in the common garden, did not entirely compensate for presumed nutrient availability limitations along the in situ latitudinal temperature gradient.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)220-235
Number of pages16
Issue number2
StatePublished - Jul 2003

Bibliographical note

Funding Information:
Acknowledgements This study was made possible by support from the State Committee for Scientific Research (Poland) grant 6 PO4F 001 17 and the U.S. National Science Foundation (IBN-9630241).


  • Adaptation
  • Climate gradient
  • Needle longevity
  • Nutrient resorption
  • Scots pine


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