Chin J Plant Ecol ›› 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:2017-05-10 Published:2017-06-22
  • 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