We evaluate the importance of changes in photosynthetic capacity, respiration rates, root shoot ratio, pipe model parameters and specific leaf area in the early-growth response of hybrid poplar to nitrogen availability. Juvenile growth simulations for trees with three different levels of leaf nitrogen concentration (Nleaf) (low (1.2%), medium (2.4%) and high (3.6%)) were conducted with the carbon-balance model CROBAS. Five-year growth simulations showed the diameter and height of poplar trees to be, respectively, four and three times larger in plants with 2.4% Nleaf compared with those with 1.2% Nleaf. Increasing Nleaf from 2.4 to 3.6% resulted in 34 and 16% higher diameter and height growth of trees. According to the model, changes in the photosynthetic capacity accounted for most of the differences in growth between trees with different levels of Nleaf; the other parameters were much less influential. This suggests that in fast-growing early-successional broadleaved species such as poplars, physiological rather than allocational and morphological traits predominate in determining growth, at least under non-limiting light conditions
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