The nitrogen economic spectrum of legume stoichiometry and fixation strategy

Guy Dovrat, Hila Bakhshian, Tania Masci, Efrat Sheffer

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


Leaf nitrogen concentration often is higher in leguminous plants, which associate with dinitrogen-fixing bacteria, compared with nonlegume plants. However, the range of nitrogen concentrations in legumes is wide, likely related to the range of nitrogen fixation strategies. We evaluated how carbon and nitrogen allocation to roots, stems and leaves is influenced by the type of strategy of nitrogen fixation regulation. We grew herbaceous annual legumes (Medicago truncatula, Hymenocarpos circinnatus and Vicia palaestina) under two nitrogen availability treatments (none/sufficient), with and without bacterial inoculation. We found facultative downregulation of the rate of nitrogen fixation when nitrogen was available in H. circinnatus, and an obligate similar fixation rate in both nitrogen treatments in M. truncatula and V. palaestina. Uninoculated plants invested more biomass in roots and contained lower nitrogen concentrations. However, nitrogen concentration in the entire plant and in the leaves was lower and more plastic in the species with a facultative fixation strategy, whereas species with an obligate fixation strategy also maintained high nitrogen concentrations. Our results suggest a suite of functional traits associated with the strategies of allocation and symbiotic nitrogen fixation. This suite of traits probably shapes successional and functional niches of different leguminous species in specious plant communities.

Original languageAmerican English
Pages (from-to)365-375
Number of pages11
Issue number2
StatePublished - 1 Jul 2020


  • Fabaceae
  • allocation
  • facultative strategy
  • herbaceous plant community
  • inoculation
  • obligate strategy
  • root nodules
  • symbiosis

All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes

  • Physiology
  • Plant Science


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