Biomass partitioning, architecture and plasticity of eight herbaceous species in relation to their position in an old field succession

P. Schippers, H. Olff

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57 Citations (Scopus)


Three grasses (Holcus lanatus, Anthoxanthum odoratum and Festuca ovina) and three herbs (Rumex obtusifolius, Plantago lanceolata and Hieracium pilosella) were grown in a greenhouse at 3 nutrient levels in order to evaluate plant allocation, architecture and biomass turnover in relation to fertility level of their habitats. Four harvests were done at intervals of 4 weeks. Various plant traits related to biomass partitioning, plant architecture, biomass turnover and performance were determined. Differences in nutrient supply induced a strong functional response in the species shoot:root allocation, but architecture and turnover showed little or no response. Architectural parameters like specific leaf area and specific root length, however, in general decreased during plant development. Species from more nutrient-rich successional stages were characterized by a larger specific leaf area and longer specific shoot height (height/shoot biomass), resulting in a higher RGR and total biomass in all nutrient conditions. There was no evidence that species from nutrient-poor environments had a longer specific root length or any other superior growth characteristic. The only advantage displayed by these species was a lower leaf turnover when expressed as the fraction of dead leaves and a shorter specific shoot height (SSH) which might prevent herbivory and mowing losses. The dead leaf fraction, which is a good indicator for biomass and nutrient loss, appeared to be not only determined by the leaf longevity, but was also found to be directly related to the RGR of the species. This new fact might explain the slow relative growth rates in species from a nutrient-poor habitat and should be considered in future discussions about turnover.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)219-231
JournalPlant Ecology
Publication statusPublished - 2000


  • Allocation
  • Architecture
  • Biomass turnover
  • Nutrient availability
  • Specific leaf area
  • Specific root length


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