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Use of stable isotopes to quantify nitrogen, potassium and magnesium dynamics in young Scots pine (Pinus sylvestris)

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Abstract

Two-yr-old Scots pine (Pinus sylvestris) seedlings were grown in sand culture for 1 yr with a generous supply of a balanced nutrient solution. Trees were repotted into clean sand in February 1998 and given either a reduced or adequate nutrient supply containing enriched 15N, 41K and 26Mg to label nutrient uptake during spring 1998. Trees doubled their biomass during the experiment. Whole-tree net photosynthesis was reduced by 43% after 95 d in trees that received the lower nutrient supply (P < 0.001), although differences in biomass between the two treatments were less pronounced. Remobilization contributed 83, 82 and 52% of the N, K and Mg, respectively, used to support growth of new tissues in trees that received reduced nutrient supply. Those receiving the higher nutrient supply still obtained 44–59% of nutrients used for spring growth of new tissues from remobilization. Current nutrient supply had no significant effect on the amount of N or Mg remobilized to new tissues but K remobilization was less in trees that received the lower nutrient supply (P = 0.025). The importance of remobilization in young trees and problems associated with quantifying internal cycling of nutrients are discussed.

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