The growth-rate hypothesis states that fast-growing organisms need relatively more phosphorus-rich RNA to support rapid rates of protein synthesis, and therefore predicts, within and among taxa, increases in RNA and phosphorus content (relative to protein and nitrogen content) with increased growth rate. Here, we present a test of this hypothesis in vascular plants. We determined nitrogen : phosphorus ratios and protein : RNA ratios in pines growing at different rates due to nutrient conditions. In general, when comparing leaves of the same species at low and high growth rates, the faster-growing plants had higher RNA content, higher %N and %P, and lower protein : RNA ratios, but not consistently lower N : P ratios. We found no link between growth rate and foliar N : P or protein : RNA when comparing multiple species of different inherent growth rates. We conclude that plants adjust the balance of protein and RNA to favour either speed or efficiency of protein synthesis, but this balance does not alone dictate leaf stoichiometry.
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