Current issue: 57(1)
Novel information on silver birch (Betula pendula Roth) foliar element contents and their seasonal, between-habitat and leaf level variations are provided by applying fine-scaled element mapping with micro X-ray fluorescence. In the monthly leaf samples collected from May to October from six different habitats, pairwise scatter plots and Spearman’s rank correlations showed statistically significant positive correlations between Si, Al and Fe, and covariations between also many other pairs of elements. Of the ten elements studied, seven showed statistically significant changes in their average levels between May and June. The contents of P, S and K decreased in most habitats during the later season, whereas Ca and in some habitats also Mn and Zn increased. Comparing habitats, trees in the limestone habitat had relatively low content of Mg, strongly increasing levels of P until the late season, and high content of Ca and Fe. Other habitats also revealed distinctive particularities in their foliar elements, such as a high relative content of S and a low content of Ca at the seashore. Mn was high in three habitats, possibly due to bedrock characteristics. Except for P, the contents of all elements diverged between the midrib and other leaf areas. Zn content was particularly high in the leaf veins. Mn levels were highest at the leaf margins, indicating a possible sequestration mechanism for this potentially harmful element. Si may help to alleviate the metallic toxicities of Al and Fe. Because the growing season studied was dry, some trees developed symptoms of drought stress. The injured leaf parts had reduced levels of P, S and K, suggesting translocation of these nutrients before permanent damage.