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Vachellia drepanolobium nutrient translocation in response to smoke


Angier, Katherine et al. (2022), Vachellia drepanolobium nutrient translocation in response to smoke, Dryad, Dataset,


1. Fire is a major selective force on arid grassland communities, favoring traits such as the smoke-induced seed germination response seen in a wide variety of plant species. However, little is known about the relevance of smoke as a cue for plants beyond the seedling stage.

2. We exposed a fire-adapted savanna tree, Vachellia (=Acacia) drepanolobium, to smoke and compared nutrient concentrations in leaf and root tissues to unexposed controls. Experiments were performed on three age cohorts: 2-year-old, 9-month-old, and 3-month-old plants.

3. For the 2-year-old plants exposed to smoke, carbon and nitrogen concentrations were lower in the leaves and higher in the roots compared to controls. Less pronounced trends were found for boron and magnesium.

4. In contrast, smoke-exposed 3-month-old plants had lower root nitrogen concentrations compared to controls. No significant differences were found in the 9-month-old plants, and no significant shifts in other nutrient concentrations were observed between plant tissues for any of the three age cohorts.

5. Synthesis: Our findings are consistent with smoke-induced translocation of nutrients from leaves to roots in 2-year-old V. drepanolobium. This could represent a novel form of fire adaptation, with variation over the course of plant development. The translocation differences between age cohorts highlight the need to investigate smoke response in older plants of other species. Accounting for this adaptation could better inform our understanding of savanna community structure and nutrient flows under fire regimes altered by anthropogenic land use and climate change.


Vachellia drepanolobium plants of three different ages were exposed to one hour of smoke, and then broken down 24 hours later. Plant tissues were separated into leaves and roots, ground, and dried and then sent to Spectrum Analytic for nutrient analyses.

Usage Notes

Plant age refers to time after planting of the Vachellia drepanolobium. All percents are percent masses. Height refers to height of longest stem. Diameter is stem diameter at base. Certain measurements were excluded if there was insufficient tissue to run nutrient analyses.