• Global climate change;
  • internal nutrient cycling;
  • latitude;
  • leaf litter;
  • nitrogen and phosphorus;
  • precipitation;
  • temperature


Aim  Nutrient resorption from senescing leaves is an important mechanism of nutrient conservation in plants, but the patterns of nutrient resorption at the global scale are unknown. Because soil nutrients vary along climatic gradients, we hypothesize that nutrient resorption changes with latitude, temperature and precipitation.

Location  Global.

Methods  We conducted a meta-analysis on a global data set collected from published literature on nitrogen (N) and phosphorus (P) resorption of woody plants.

Results   For all data pooled, both N resorption efficiency (NRE) and P resorption efficiency (PRE) were significantly related to latitude, mean annual temperature (MAT) and mean annual precipitation (MAP): NRE increased with latitude but decreased with MAT and MAP. In contrast, PRE decreased with latitude but increased with MAT and MAP. When functional groups (shrub versus tree, coniferous versus broadleaf and evergreen versus deciduous) were examined individually, the patterns of NRE and PRE in relation to latitude, MAT and MAP were generally similar.

Main conclusions  The relationships between N and P resorption and latitude, MAT and MAP indicate the existence of geographical patterns of plant nutrient conservation strategies in relation to temperature and precipitation at the global scale, particularly for PRE, which can be an indicator for P limitation in the tropics and selective pressure shaping the evolution of plant traits. Our results suggest that, although the magnitude of plant nutrient resorption might be regulated by local factors such as substrate, spatial patterns are also controlled by temperature or precipitation.