The phosphorus economy of mediterranean oak saplings under global change

Inga Dirks, Julia Köhler, Shimon Rachmilevitch, Ina C. Meier

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

7 Scopus citations


While a severe decrease in phosphorus (P) availability is already taking place in a large number of ecosystems, drought and nitrogen (N) deposition will likely further decrease the availability of P under global change. Plants have developed physiological strategies to cope with decreasing P resources, but it is unclear how these strategies respond to elevated N deposition and summer droughts. We investigated the influence of N and P availability and soil drought on P uptake (H 3 33 PO 4 feeding experiment) and use efficiencies in young Quercus calliprinos Webb. trees. We hypothesized that (H1) the expected increases in soil N:P ratios will increase the efficiencies of P uptake and use of oak saplings but will decrease the efficiencies of N uptake and use, whereas (H2) drought will affect P uptake efficiency more than N uptake efficiency. In confirmation of (H1) we found that a sharp increase of the soil N:P ratio from 4 to 42 g g -1 significantly increased the instantaneous 33 P uptake efficiency ( 33 PUptakeE) by five-fold and long-term P uptake efficiency (PUptakeE) by six-fold, while it decreased N uptake efficiency (NUptakeE) and N use efficiency (NUE). In contradiction to (H1), P use efficiency (PUE) did not respond to the simulated extended gradient of soil N:P ratios but remained relatively constant. (H2) was only partially confirmed as soil drought reduced PUptakeE by up to a fourth at high soil N:P ratios but had no significant effect on NUptakeE. As a consequence, increasing summer droughts may decrease the response of PUptakeE to increasing P limitation, which – in the absence of adjustments of the efficiency of P use – can aggravate growth reductions in this eastern Mediterranean tree species under global change.

Original languageEnglish
Article number405
JournalFrontiers in Plant Science
StatePublished - 22 Mar 2019


  • Drought
  • Eastern Mediterranean
  • Global change
  • Nitrogen deposition
  • Phosphorus limitation
  • Quercus calliprinos
  • Uptake efficiency

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Plant Science


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