Soluble inorganic tissue phosphorus and calcicole-calcifuge behaviour of plants
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Background and aims Natural and semi-natural, non-fertilized calcareous soils are consistently low in soluble and easily exchangeable phosphate. An over-utilization, or possibly an immobilization, of inorganic P in the tissues of calcifuge plants may take place, if such plants are forced to grow on a calcareous soil, though this has not been experimentally demonstrated. The objectives of this study are, therefore, to elucidate if calcifuge plants, when forced to develop on a calcareous soil, not only have lower total P (Ptot) concentrations in their leaves than calcicole plants grown on such soil, but also a lower proportion of Not as water-soluble, inorganic phosphate. Such differences may be of importance in understanding the calcicole-calcifuge behaviour of plants. Materials and methods Plants of five calcicole and five calcifuge herbs and three calcicole and three calcifuge grasses were cultivated in a glasshouse on a moderately acid Cambisol and a calcareous Rendzic Leptosol using seeds of wild populations from southern Sweden. The calcifuges were: Corynephorus canescens, Deschampsia flexuosa, Holcus mollis, Digitalis purpurea, Lychnis viscaria, Rumex acetosella, Scleranthus annus and Silene rupestris. The calcicoles were: Melica ciliata, Phleum phleoides, Sesleria caerulea, Arabis hirsuta, Sanguisorba minor, Scabiosa columbaria, Silene uniflora ssp. petraea and Veronica spicata. Key results At harvest, calcifuges had much lower leaf tissue concentrations of Ptot and Pi than calcicoles when grown on the calcareous soil, and biomass production of the calcifuges was poor on this soil. Moreover, the calcifuge herbs had, on average, a lower proportion of their Ptot as Pi than had the calcicole herbs. The calcifuge herbs were also unable to avoid excessive uptake of Ca from the calcareous soil. The calcifuge grasses maintained a similar proportion of Ptot as Pi as the calcicole grasses, but their growth was still poor on the calcareous soil. Conclusions On calcareous soil, very little Pi in the tissues of calcifuge herbs is, at any time, available for use in various physiological functions. This is of importance to their photosynthesis, growth, competition and final survival on such soils.