• Poa;
  • allocation;
  • alpine;
  • construction costs;
  • growth analysis;
  • lowland;
  • nitrogen;
  • photosynthesis;
  • respiration


This study investigates the nitrogen economy of six altitudinally contrasting Poa species which differ in their relative growth rate (R). Two alpine (Poa fawcettiae and P. costiniana), one sub-alpine (P. alpina)and three temperate lowland species (P. pratensis, P. campressa and P. trivialis) were grown hydroponically under identical conditions in a growth room. The low R exhibited by the alpine species was associated with lower plant organic nitrogen concentration (np) and lower nitrogen productivity (Πp, amount of biomass accumulation per mol organic nitrogen and time). The differences in Πp between the alpine and lowland species did not appear to be due to differences in the carbon concentration or the proportion of total plant organic nitrogen allocated to the leaves, stems or roots. Variations in ΠP were also not due to variations in photosynthetic nitrogen use efficiency (ΨN, the rate of photosynthesis per unit organic leaf nitrogen) or shoot or root respiration rates per unit organic nitrogen (ΛSH and ΛR, respectively) per se. Rather, the lower Λp in the alpine species was probably due to a combination of small variations in several of the parameters (e.g. slightly lower ΨN, slightly higher ΛSH and ΛR, and slightly higher proportions of total plant organic nitrogen allocated to the roots). The alpine species exhibited lower organic acid and mineral concentrations. However, no differences in whole-plant construction costs (grams of glucose needed to synthesize one gram of biomass) were observed between She alpine and lowland Poa species. The lack of sub-stantial differences in ΨN between the alpine and lowland species contrasts with the large differences in ΨN between slow- and fast-growing lowland species that have been reported in the literature. The reasons for the unusually high ΨN values exhibited by the alpine Poa species are discussed.