Leaf age and season influence the relationships between leaf nitrogen leaf mass per area and photosynthesis in maple and oak trees
Reich, P.B.; Walters, M.B.; Ellsworth, D.S.
Plant Cell and Environment 14(3): 251-260
Seasonal changes in photosynthesis, leaf nitrogen (N) contents and leaf mass per area (LMA) were observed over three growing seasons in open-grown sun-lit leaves of red maple (Acer rubrum), sugar maple (A. saccharum) and northern pin oak (Quercus ellipsoidalis) trees in southern Wisconsin [USA]. Net photosynthesis and leaf N were highly linearly correlated on both mass and area bases within all species from late spring until leaf senescence in fall. Very early in the growing season leaves had high N concentrations, but low photosynthetic rates per unit leaf N, suggesting that leaves were not fully functionally developed at that time. Leaf N per unit area and LMA had nonparallel seasonal patterns, resulting in differing relationships between leaf N/area and LMA in the early versus late growing season. As a result of differences in seasonal patterns between leaf N/area and LMA, net photosynthesis/area was higher for a given LMA in the spring than fall, and the overall relationships between these two parameters were poor.