, Volume 51, Issue 2, pp 245–251 | Cite as

Ecophysiological response in leaves of Caragana microphylla to different soil phosphorus levels



Phosphorus (P) is one of the limiting mineral nutrient elements in the typical steppe of Inner Mongolia, China. In order to find out the adaptive strategy of Caragana microphylla to low soil P status, we grew plants in P-deficient soil in April 2009 and gave a gradient of P addition ranging from 0 to 60 mg(P) kg−1(soil) from May 2010. Leaf traits were measured in September 2010. Both leaf growth and light-saturated photosynthetic rate (P max) were similar among different groups. Leaf nitrogen (N):P ratio indicated that the growth of C. microphylla was not P-limited in most of the Inner Mongolia typical steppe, which had an average soil available P content equal to 3.61 mg kg−1. The optimal P addition was 20 mg(P) kg−1(soil) for two-year-old plants of C. microphylla. Leaf mass area (LMA) and leaf dry matter content (LDMC) were enhanced with low P, and significantly negatively correlated with photosynthetic N-use efficiency (PNUE). Photosynthetic P-use efficiency (PPUE) increased with decreasing soil P and increasing leaf inorganic P (Pi): organic P (Po) ratio, and showed no significant negative correlation with LMA or LDMC. P max of C. microphylla did not decline so sharply as it was anticipated. The reason for this phenomenon might be due to the increased PPUE through regulating the leaf total P allocation. C. microphylla had high P-use efficiency via both high PPUE and long P-retention time at low-P supply. The adaptation of C. microphylla to low-P supply provided a new explanation for the increased distribution of the species in the degraded natural grassland in Inner Mongolia, China.

Additional key words

adaptive strategy leaf functional traits leaf phosphorus allocation soil phosphorus level 



leaf area per compound leaf


dry mass


fresh mass


stomatal conductance


increase of compound leaf number


leaf dry matter content


leaf mass area


leaf total phosphorus


leaf total phosphorus content per unit of leaf area


leaf total phosphorus content per unit of leaf dry mass


leaf total nitrogen content per unit of leaf dry mass


light-saturated photosynthetic rate per unit of leaf area


light-saturated photosynthetic rate per unit of leaf dry mass


light-saturated photosynthetic rate


inorganic phosphorus


leaf inorganic phosphorus content per unit of leaf area


leaf inorganic phosphorus content per unit of leaf dry mass


photosynthetic nitrogen-use efficiency


organic phosphorus


leaf organic phosphorus content per unit of leaf area


leaf organic phosphorus content per unit of leaf dry mass


photosynthetic phosphorus-use efficiency


response ratio


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Copyright information

© Springer Science+Business Media Dordrecht 2013

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Department of Plant Biology and Ecology, College of Life SciencesNankai UniversityTianjinChina

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