Strategies in nitrogen uptake and use by deciduous and evergreen woody species in a seasonally dry sandhill community

Patrick Z. Ellsworth, Leonel S.L. Sternberg

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

3 Scopus citations


Background: Dry seasonal ecosystems such as the Florida sandhill are defined by a pronounced and consistent dry season that results in both water and nutrient limitation. Deciduous and evergreen species have evolved different leaf phenologies, which change the temporal pattern of nutrient demands for leaf growth. Methods: To measure N uptake for deciduous and evergreen species during late dry season deciduous leaf-out, we labeled the shallow soil with 15N by spreading a mixture of native sand and 15N-KNO3 around each tree and measured foliar nitrogen isotopic composition. We also measured foliar N content and nitrogen resorption efficiency (NRE). Results: Evergreen and deciduous species were not consistently different in foliar N content and NRE, but natural foliar δ15N values were consistently higher in deciduous species. Labeling experiments show that uptake rate of 15N- labeled NO3 was lowest for the deciduous species. Conclusions: Inconsistent results in foliar N content and NRE do not explain the differences in leaf habit in nutrient-poor ecosystems. Low N uptake during leaf-out limits deciduous species to the most fertile regions of the Florida scrub as well as in several other ecosystems, so that they can take up sufficient N to meet the demands of leaf growth.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)165-175
Number of pages11
JournalPlant and Soil
Issue number1-2
StatePublished - Mar 1 2016


  • Deciduous
  • Dry seasonal forest
  • Evergreen
  • Florida sandhill
  • Foliar nitrogen content
  • Nitrogen resorption efficiency
  • Nitrogen stable isotopes
  • Nutrient uptake

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Soil Science
  • Plant Science


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