Needle traits of an evergreen, coniferous shrub growing at wind-exposed and protected sites in a mountain region: does Pinus pumila produce needles with greater mass per area under wind-stress conditions?


  • Editor
    M. Tausz

  • Conflicts of interest
    The authors declare no conflicts of interest

S. Nagano, Graduate School of Life Sciences, Tohoku University, Aoba, Sendai 980-8578, Japan.


Snow depth is one of the most important determinants of vegetation, especially in mountainous regions. In such regions, snow depth tends to be low at wind-exposed sites such as ridges, where stand height and productivity are limited by stressful environmental conditions during winter. Siberian dwarf pine (Pinus pumila Regel) is a dominant species in mountainous regions of Japan. We hypothesized that P. pumila produces needles with greater mass per area at wind-exposed sites than at wind-protected sites because it invests more nitrogen (N) in cell walls at the expense of N investment in the photosynthetic apparatus, resulting in increased photosynthetic N use efficiency (PNUE). Contrary to our hypothesis, plants at wind-exposed site invested less resources in needles, as exhibited by lower biomass, N, Rubisco and cell wall mass per unit area, and had higher photosynthetic capacity, higher PNUE and shorter needle life-span than plants at a wind-protected site. N partitioning was not significantly different between sites. These results suggest that P. pumila at wind-exposed sites produces needles at low cost with high productivity to compensate for a short leaf life-span, which may be imposed by wind stress when needles appear above the snow surface in winter.