Whole-canopy nitrogen-use efficiency of pioneer species in early secondary forest succession in Vietnam

Marijke van Kuijk, Niels P.R. Anten

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5 Citations (Scopus)


The size hierarchy among plants during forest succession can be influenced by differences in nitrogen-use efficiency (NUE). During succession, soil nitrogen availability decreases, which increases the importance for species to use nitrogen efficiently. We compare whole-canopy-NUE and its underlying traits among pioneer species in a tropical forest over the first years of succession. At the leaf level, potential photosynthetic NUE (PPNUE: light-saturated photosynthetic rate/leaf N content) was partly positively correlated with species growth rate but not to species height. Canopy-NUE differed two-fold among species. The species with the highest PPNUE and growth rate but with a small stature had a high canopy-NUE and the tallest species had a low canopy-NUE. Differences in canopy-NUE appeared to be largely determined by leaf life span (LLS) and nitrogen resorption. A high LLS or a high resorption resulted in a high mean residence time of nitrogen and thus a high canopy-NUE. Canopy-NUE of a species was different between successional stands that differed in age and thus in height, leaf-area index, and resource availability. Thus, an increase in competitive pressure with succession did cause some changes in the use of nitrogen, except for one species. Species that are generally considered part of the same functional group (pioneer trees) can differ considerably in NUE and its underlying traits.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)811-820
JournalEcological Research
Issue number4
Publication statusPublished - Jul 2009
Externally publishedYes


  • Canopy model
  • Leaf life span
  • Nitrogen productivity
  • Photosynthesis
  • Resorption

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