J Plant Ecol ›› 2021, Vol. 14 ›› Issue (4): 616-627.DOI: 10.1093/jpe/rtab016

• Research Articles • Previous Articles     Next Articles

Environmental constraints on the inter-genus variation in the scaling relationship between leaf nitrogen and phosphorus concentrations

Yanpei Guo1, Zhengbing Yan1,2, Yi-Wei Zhang1, Guoyi Zhou3,4, Zongqiang Xie5, and Zhiyao Tang1, *   

  1. 1 Institute of Ecology, Key Laboratory for Earth Surface Processes and College of Urban and Environmental Sciences, Peking University, Beijing 100871, China, 2 School of Biological Sciences, The University of Hong Kong, Hong Kong 999077, China, 3 South China Botanical Garden, Chinese Academy of Sciences, Guangzhou 510650, China, 4 Institute of Ecology, School of Applied Meteorology, Nanjing University of Information Science & Technology, Nanjing 210044, China, 5 Key Laboratory of Vegetation and Environmental Change, Institute of Botany, Chinese Academy of Sciences, Beijing 100093, China

    *Corresponding author. E-mail: zytang@urban.pku.edu.cn
  • Received:2021-01-19 Accepted:2021-01-24 Online:2021-02-12 Published:2021-08-01



The scaling relationship between nitrogen (N) and phosphorus (P) concentrations ([N] and [P], respectively) in leaves manifests plants’ relative investment between the two nutrients. However, the variation in this relationship among taxa as well as its causes was seldom described.


The analysis was based on a dataset including 2483 leaf samples from 46 genera of angiosperm woody plants from 1733 sites across China. We calculated the leaf N–P scaling exponent (βL) with an allometric equation ([N] = α[P]β), for each genus, respectively. We then performed phylogenetic path analyses to test how the climate and soil niche conditions of these genera contributed to the inter-genus variation in βL.

Important Findings

The genera living with lower soil P availability presented a more favoured P uptake relative to N, as shown by the higher βL, suggesting a resistant trend to P limitation. Additionally, genus-wise βL was positively correlated with soil N–P scaling exponents (βS), implying that the variation in leaf nutrients is constrained by the variability in their sources from soil. Finally, climatic factors including temperature and moisture did not affect βL directly, but could have an indirect influence by mediating soil nutrients. Phylogeny did not affect the inter-genus variation in βL along environmental gradients. These results reveal that the trade-off between N and P uptake is remarkably shaped by genus niches, especially soil nutrient conditions, suggesting that the βL could be considered as a functional trait reflecting characteristics of nutrient utilization of plant taxa in response to niche differentiation.

Key words: moisture, niche, nutrient uptake, phylogeny, soil nitrogen, phosphorus allometry, soil nutrient availability, temperature

植物叶片中氮(N)、磷(P)含量的异速生长关系表明了植物对这两种元素的相对投入。而,现有的研究很少关注这一关系在分类单元之间的差异及其成因。本研究基于来自全国1733个样地,属于46个木本被子植物属的2483个叶片样品,利用异速生长方程([N] = α[P]β)分别计算了各属的叶氮、磷含量异速生长指数(βL)。然后利用谱系路径分析检验了这些属的气候和土壤生态位条件如何影响属间的βL的差异。生活在贫磷土壤中的属更可能表现出更高的βL,即相对于氮而言更强的磷积累,这可能表明了植物对磷限制的抵抗倾向。此外,各属的βL与相对应的土壤氮、磷含量异速生长指数(βS)正相关,这可能表明了叶养分的变化受制于作为来源的土壤养分的变化。最后,包括温度和湿度在内的气候因子不会直接影响βL的属间变化,但可能通过调节土壤养分水平发挥间接的作用。谱系关系不会影响各属βL随环境梯度的变化。这些结果揭示了植物对氮、磷摄取的权衡关系可能受属生态位,特别是土壤生态位的影响,表明了βL可以作为一项反映植物养分利用特征如何响应生态位差异的功能属性。

关键词: 湿度, 生态位, 养分摄取, 谱系, 土壤氮-磷异速生长关系, 土壤养分, 温度