K.D. Hill trees on the island of Yap were used to determine the influence of position along the leaf rachis on macro- and micro-nutrient concentrations and how leaf age affected the results. The outcomes revealed improvements to sampling protocols for future cycad leaf research. The concentration of every element except carbon and copper was influenced by leaflet position along the rachis. Most elements exhibited similar patterns for the oldest and youngest leaves on a tree, but the influence of position along the rachis for nitrogen, phosphorus, calcium, zinc, and boron was highly contrasting for old versus young leaves. The elements with the greatest variability along the rachis were potassium, phosphorus, manganese, and zinc, with the difference in basal and terminal leaflets as great as four-fold. Sampling leaflets at one position on a cycad leaf may generate inaccurate elemental concentration results for most essential nutrients other than carbon and copper. We have added position of sampled leaflets within leaves as a mandatory component of what is recorded and reported for future cycad leaf tissue analyses. Leaflets that span the full length of the rachis should be included in cycad leaf samples that are collected for tissue analysis.
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