J Plant Ecol ›› 2019, Vol. 12 ›› Issue (1): 67-77.doi: 10.1093/jpe/rtx065

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Latitudinal pattern and the driving factors of leaf functional traits in 185 shrub species across eastern China

Yongkai Luo1,2, Huifeng Hu1,*, Mengying Zhao1,2, He Li1, Shangshi Liu1,2 and Jingyun Fang1,3   

  1. 1 State Key Laboratory of Vegetation and Environmental Change, Institute of Botany, Chinese Academy of Sciences, No. 20 Nanxincun, Xiangshan, Beijing 100093, China
    2 University of Chinese Academy of Sciences, 19 A Yuquan Rd, Shijingshan District, Beijing 100049, China
    3 College of Urban and Environmental Sciences, and Key Laboratory for Earth Surface Processes of the Ministry of Education, Peking University, No. 5 Yiheyuan Rd, Haidian District, Beijing 100871, China
    *Correspondence address. State Key Laboratory of Vegetation and Environmental Change, Institute of Botany, Chinese Academy of Sciences, No. 20 Nanxincun, Xiangshan, Beijing 100093, China. Tel: +86-10-6283 6238; Fax: +86-10-6259 0833; E-mail: huifhu@ibcas.ac.cn
  • Received:2017-03-19 Revised:2017-11-02 Accepted:2017-11-16 Online:2019-01-15 Published:2019-02-01

Abstract:

Aims

To explore the pattern of the leaf functional traits of shrub species along a latitudinal gradient in eastern China and determine the driving factors of leaf trait variation at a large scale.

Methods

We investigated the leaf thickness (LT), leaf area (LA), specific leaf area (SLA) and leaf dry mass content (LDMC) of 185 shrub species from 13 sites across eastern China. The trends of these four-leaf traits were analyzed with respect to latitude, and the differences between different life forms (e.g., evergreen and deciduous) and habitats (e.g., understory and typical) were compared. We quantified the effects of the plant life forms and environmental factors on the leaf traits via mixed-model analyses.

Important Findings

The LT and LA decreased, whilst and the LDMC increased, as the latitude increased, and significant differences in these traits were observed between the different plant life forms. The LT and LA were smaller, whereas the SLA and LDMC were larger in deciduous shrubs than in evergreen shrubs. Among the different habitats, the LA and SLA were larger, while the LDMC was smaller in understory shrubs than in typical shrub species. These results indicate that typical shrub species are better adapted to drier environments, as indicated by a reduced LT and increased LDMC. Furthermore, general linear models showed that variations in the four-leaf traits with respect to latitude were mainly caused by a shift in plant life forms.

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