Chin J Plan Ecolo ›› 2017, Vol. 41 ›› Issue (5): 559-569.doi: 10.17521/cjpe.2016.0248

• Research Articles • Previous Articles     Next Articles

Effects of light intensity variation on nitrogen and phosphorus contents, allocation and limitation in five shade-enduring plants

Hong-Tao XIE, Mu-Kui YU, Xiang-Rong CHENG*()   

  1. National Field Research Station of Eastern China Coastal Forest Ecosystem, Research Institute of Subtropical Forestry, Chinese Academy of Forestry, Hangzhou 311400, China
  • Online:2017-06-22 Published:2017-05-10
  • Contact: Xiang-Rong CHENG
  • About author:

    KANG Jing-yao(1991-), E-mail:


Aims To enhance the understanding on nitrogen (N) and phosphorus (P) physiological responses to different light environments in shade-enduring plants and provide references to improve the stand structure and ecosystem functions of plantation forests.Methods We selected seedlings of five shade-enduring species with high ecological and economic value in subtropical area of China to study the effects of light intensity on leaf N and P contents, allocation and nutrient limitation in shade-enduring plants. A light intensity gradient of five different levels was set to simulate the varying understory light environment.Important findings With decreasing light intensity, the total biomass and total N and P accumulation of five shade-enduring plants all showed a decreasing trend, but N, P contents in different organs increased. Among them, Gardenia jasminoides (GJ) had the highest while Illicium henryi (IH) had the lowest N content; The P contents of Quercus phillyraeoides (QP) and GJ were significantly higher than Elaeocarpus sylvestris (ES), Ardisia crenata (AC) and IH. QP and GJ had the highest N, P contents under extremely low light intensity (6% natural light intensity) condition (LIC), while AC and IH had the highest N and P contents in low (15% natural light intensity) and moderate (33% and 52% natural light intensity) LIC. ES demanded differently for LIC on N and P, which were 52% and 6% natural light intensity, respectively. N and P allocation of ES, AC and IH followed leaf > root > stem, but for QP and GJ were root > leaf > stem. Decreasing LIC significantly affected N and P allocation. N content variations shown good consistency among different organs under higher LIC (100% natural light intensity) while distinct variability under lower LIC (15% and 6% natural light intensity) in all five species. Phosphorus contents exhibited good consistency in IH, QP and GJ but varied in ES and AC. Decreasing LIC significantly affected organ N/P ratios of shade-enduring plants, but the fundamental growth restriction patterns remained. Light intensity variation and tree species co-regulated N, P utilization and allocation in shade-enduring plants, and then affected the total biomass and total N, P accumulation, which might result from the change of N and P utilization strategy. Therefore, light intensity preference and N, P nutrient balances in shade-enduring plants should be taken into account when constructing multiple layer and uneven-aged forests.

Key words: light intensity, shade-enduring plant, N content, P content, allocation, adaptation strategy

Table 1

Species attributes and applications of five shade-enduring plants"

物种 Species 缩写 Abbreviation 科属 Family and genera 生活型 Life form 主要用途 Main applications
Elaeocarpus sylvestris
ES 杜英科杜英属
Elaeocarpaceae Elaeocarpus
Garden, timber, protection, medicine, etc.
朱砂根 Ardisia crenata AC 紫金牛科紫金牛属
Myrsinaceae Ardisia
Ornamental, soil fixing, medicine, etc.
红茴香 Illicium henryi IH 八角科八角属 Illiciaceae Illicium 乔木 Tree 观赏、药用等 Ornamental, medicine, etc.
栀子 Gardenia jasminoides GJ 茜草科栀子属 Rubiaceae Gardenia 灌木 Shrub 园林、食用、药用等 Garden, edible, medicine, etc.
乌冈栎 Quercus phillyraeoides QP 壳斗科栎属 Fagaceae Quercus 乔木 Tree 木材、酿酒、饲料等 Timber, wine, feed, etc.

Fig. 1

Experimental design."

Fig. 2

Total N, P accumulations and biomass of five shade- enduring plants under varying light intensity condition (mean ± SD). AC, Ardisia crenata; ES, Elaeocarpus sylvestris; GJ, Gardenia jasminoides; IH, Illicium henryi; QP, Quercus phillyraeoides. 100R, 52R, 33R, 15R and 6R represent 100%, 52%, 33%, 15% and 6% of the natural light intensity, respectively. Different lowercase letters indicate significant differences between light intensity conditions of the same species at p < 0.05 levels. Different capital letters indicate significant differences between species of the same light intensity condition at p < 0.05 levels."

Fig. 3

Total N content and organ N contents of five shade-enduring plants under varying light intensity condition (mean ± SD). AC, Ardisia crenata; ES, Elaeocarpus sylvestris; GJ, Gardenia jasminoides; IH, Illicium henryi; QP, Quercus phillyraeoides. 100R, 52R, 33R, 15R and 6R represent 100%, 52%, 33%, 15% and 6% of the natural light intensity, respectively. Different lowercase letters indicate significant differences between light intensity conditions of the same species at p < 0.05 levels. Different capital letters indicate significant differences between species of the same light intensity condition at p < 0.05 levels."

Fig. 4

Coefficients of variation of N and P contents in plant organs under varying light intensity condition. AC, Ardisia crenata; ES, Elaeocarpus sylvestris; GJ, Gardenia jasminoides; IH, Illicium henryi; QP, Quercus phillyraeoides."

Fig. 5

Total P content and organ P contents of five shade-enduring plants under varying LIC (mean ± SD). AC, Ardisia crenata; ES, Elaeocarpus sylvestris; GJ, Gardenia jasminoides; IH, Illicium henryi; QP, Quercus phillyraeoides. 100R, 52R, 33R, 15R and 6R represent 100%, 52%, 33%, 15% and 6% of the natural light intensity, respectively. Different lowercase letters indicate significant differences between light intensity conditions of the same species at p < 0.05 levels. Different capital letters indicate significant differences between species of the same light intensity condition at p < 0.05 levels."

Table 2

Nitrogen/phosphorus ratio (N:P) of five shade-enduring plant species under varying light intensity condition (mean ± SD)"

物种 Species 相对光强 Relative light intensity
100R 52R 33R 15R 6R
Elaeocarpus sylvestris
总N:P Total N:P 9.01 ± 0.59Cd 15.95 ± 0.53Aa 16.48 ± 1.19Aa 14.50 ± 0.29Ab 10.87 ± 0.38ABc
叶片N:P Leaf N:P 15.90 ± 1.19Aab 18.96 ± 0.59Aab 19.11 ± 3.11Aa 17.31 ± 0.45Aab 15.67 ± 1.79Bb
枝干N:P Stem N:P 6.79 ± 0.60Dc 15.70 ± 0.02Aa 16.14 ± 0.40Aa 12.23 ± 0.37Bb 6.66 ± 0.10Cc
根系N:P Root N:P 5.17 ± 1.08Db 8.72 ± 0.59Ba 9.31 ± 0.83Aa 9.39 ± 1.34Aa 8.28 ± 1.06Ba
Ardisia crenata
总N:P Total N:P 13.57 ± 0.45Aa 12.62 ± 0.11Bb 12.26 ± 0.34Bbc 12.67 ± 0.41Bb 11.57 ± 0.47Ac
叶片N:P磷 Leaf N:P 16.15 ± 0.71Ab 16.59 ± 0.48Bb 17.63 ± 2.80Bab 16.61 ± 1.17Ab 19.41 ± 0.11Aa
枝干N:P Stem N:P 15.28 ± 1.18Aa 10.27 ± 0.01Bb 9.63 ± 0.25Cbc 8.75 ± 0.44Ccd 8.28 ± 0.85Bd
根系N:P Root N:P 11.61 ± 0.92Aa 10.26 ± 0.09Abc 9.64 ± 0.23Ac 9.58 ± 0.08Ac 10.58 ± 0.17Ab
Illicium henryi
总N:P Total N:P 10.14 ± 0.73Ca 8.16 ± 0.28Da 11.11 ± 0.04Ca 11.51 ± 0.07BCa 10.37 ± 0.02Ba
叶片N:P Leaf N:P 10.73 ± 1.06Cb 9.91 ± 0.28Db 12.24 ± 0.68Da 12.09 ± 0.05Ca 11.87 ± 0.40Ca
枝干N:P Stem N:P 13.22 ± 1.00Bab 8.16 ± 0.44Cc 14.05 ± 0.34Bab 14.53 ± 1.07Aa 12.37 ± 1.39Ab
根系N:P Root N:P 7.97 ± 0.28Bb 6.33 ± 0.15Cd 8.24 ± 0.51Bb 8.92 ± 0.27Aa 7.19 ± 0.13Bc
总N:P Total N:P 12.47 ± 0.24Ba 10.30 ± 0.15Cb 11.59 ± 0.91Ca 9.86 ± 0.42Cb 11.83 ± 0.29Aa
叶片N:P Leaf N:P 15.75 ± 0.51Aa 14.22 ± 0.34Cb 15.12 ± 0.91Cab 15.62 ± 1.26Bab 16.30 ± 0.48Ba
枝干N:P Stem N:P 10.24 ± 0.72Ca 6.41 ± 0.39Dc 8.15 ± 0.55Cb 5.84 ± 0.06Dcd 5.14 ± 0.09Dd
根系N:P Root N:P 7.05 ± 0.15Ca 5.29 ± 0.01Ccd 5.88 ± 0.89Cbc 4.75 ± 0.36Bd 6.48 ± 0.31Cab
总N:P Total N:P 5.38 ± 0.01Da 5.41 ± 0.04Ea 4.39 ± 0.04Db 5.23 ± 0.25Da 4.54 ± 0.05Cb
叶片N:P Leaf N:P 11.64 ± 0.23Ba 9.84 ± 0.15Dbc 9.24 ± 0.85Ec 10.39 ± 0.13Db 9.92 ± 0.16Dbc
枝干N:P Stem N:P 3.65 ± 0.12Ea 3.32 ± 0.05Eb 2.98 ± 0.03Dc 3.57 ± 0.14Ea 3.59 ± 0.02Ea
根系N:P Root N:P 3.82 ± 0.12Ea 3.52 ± 0.02Da 2.79 ± 0.37Db 3.54 ± 0.35Ca 2.65 ± 0.02Db
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