All plant species require at least 16 elements for their growth and survival but the relative requirements and the variability at different organizational scales is not well understood. We use a fertiliser experiment with six willow (Salix spp.) genotypes to evaluate a methodology based on Euclidian distances for stoichiometric analysis of the variability in leaf nutrient relations of twelve of those (C, N, P, K, Ca, Mg, Mn, S, Fe, Zn, B, Cu) plus Na and Al. Differences in availability of the elements in the environment was the major driver of variation. Variability between leaves within a plant or between individuals of the same genotype growing in close proximity was as large as variability between genotypes. Elements could be grouped by influence on growth: N, P, S and Mn concentrations follow each other and increase with growth rate; K, Ca and Mg uptake follow the increase in biomass; but uptake of Fe, B, Zn and Al seems to be limited. The position of Cu lies between the first two groups. Only for Na is there a difference in element concentrations between genotypes. The three groups of elements can be associated with different biochemical functions.
© 2012 The Authors. New Phytologist © 2012 New Phytologist Trust.