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Keywords:

  • air temperature;
  • Betula pubescens ssp. czerepanovii;
  • growth;
  • nitrogen economy;
  • soil temperature;
  • Subarctic;
  • tree line

Summary

  • • 
    Growth and nitrogen (N) economy of mountain birch are reported here in response to temperature change. Mechanisms of temperature effects on plant growth in temperate–arctic regions are discussed in the light of decreasing growth rates and increasing leaf-N contents along altitudinal and latitudinal temperature gradients.
  • • 
    Mountain birch ( Betula pubescens ssp. czerepanovii) seedlings were grown at two soil temperatures, air temperatures and nutrient concentrations in a full-factorial experiment during one growing season in northern Sweden.
  • • 
    Changes in air and soil temperature affected aboveground growth more than belowground growth. An increase in air temperature increased leaf area ratio and plant-N productivity while decreasing plant-N concentration and leaf-N content. A change in soil temperature affected root-N uptake rate and plant-N concentration, similar to the effect of a change in nutrient supply. Air and soil temperature had interactive effects on growth rate, N productivity and leaf-N content.
  • • 
    The results indicate that increasing leaf-N content with increasing altitude and latitude is not only a passive consequence of weaker N dilution by reduced growth, but also a physiological acclimation to lower air temperature.