Calcium-enhanced phosphorus toxicity in calcifuge and soil-indifferent Proteaceae along the Jurien Bay chronosequence

Patrick E. Hayes, Caio Guilherme Pereira, Peta L. Clode, Hans Lambers

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

37 Citations (Scopus)


Many Proteaceae are highly phosphorus (P)-sensitive and occur exclusively on old nutrient-impoverished acidic soils (calcifuge), whilst a few also occur on young calcareous soils (soil-indifferent) that are higher in available calcium (Ca) and P. Calcium increases the severity of P-toxicity symptoms, but its underlying mechanisms are unknown. We propose that Ca-enhanced P toxicity explains the calcifuge habit of most Proteaceae. Four calcifuge and four soil-indifferent Proteaceae from South-Western Australia were grown in hydroponics, at a range of P and Ca concentrations. Calcium increased the severity of P-toxicity symptoms in all species. Calcifuge Proteaceae were more sensitive to Ca-enhanced P toxicity than soil-indifferent ones. Calcifuges shared these traits: low leaf zinc concentration ([Zn]), low Zn allocation to leaves, low leaf [Zn]:[P], low root : shoot ratio, and high seed P content, compared with soil-indifferent species. This is the first demonstration of Ca-enhanced P toxicity across multiple species. Calcium-enhanced P toxicity provides an explanation for the calcifuge habit of most Proteaceae and is critical for the management of this iconic Australian family. This study represents a major advance towards an understanding of the physiological mechanisms of P toxicity and its role in the distribution of Proteaceae.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)764-777
Number of pages14
JournalNew Phytologist
Issue number2
Publication statusPublished - Jan 2019


Dive into the research topics of 'Calcium-enhanced phosphorus toxicity in calcifuge and soil-indifferent Proteaceae along the Jurien Bay chronosequence'. Together they form a unique fingerprint.

Cite this