J Plant Ecol ›› 2022, Vol. 15 ›› Issue (4): 743-755 .DOI: 10.1093/jpe/rtac021

• Research Articles • Previous Articles     Next Articles

Variation and adaptation in leaf sulfur content across China

Wenzong Zhao1, Chunwang Xiao1,*, Mingxu Li2, Li Xu2 and Nianpeng He2,3,4, *   

  1. 1 College of Life and Environmental Sciences, Minzu University of China, Beijing 100081, China, 2 Key Laboratory of Ecosystem Network Observation and Modeling, Institute of Geographic Sciences and Natural Resources Research, Chinese Academy of Sciences, Beijing 100101, China, 3 College of Resources and Environment, University of Chinese Academy of Sciences, Beijing 10049, China, 4 Center for Ecological Research, Northeast Forestry University, Harbin 150040, China

    *Correspondence author. E-mail: cwxiao@muc.edu.cn (C.X.); henp@igsnrr.ac.cn (N.H.)
  • Received:2021-05-23 Revised:2021-07-29 Accepted:2021-10-27 Online:2022-03-08 Published:2022-08-01


Sulfur is an essential functional element in leaves, and it plays important roles in regulating plant growth, development and abiotic stress resistance in natural communities. However, there has been limited information on the spatial variation in leaf sulfur content (LSC) and adaptive characters on a large community scale. Sulfur in leaves of 2207 plant species from 80 widespread ecosystems (31 forests, 38 grasslands and 11 deserts) in China was measured. One-way analysis of variance with Duncan’s multiple-range tests were used to evaluate the differences in LSC among different plant growth forms and ecosystems. We fitted the relationships of LSC to spatial and climate factors using regression. Structural equation modeling analysis and phylogenetic analysis helped us further explore the main factors of LSC variation. LSC ranged from 0.15 to 48.64 g kg–1, with an average of 2.13 ± 0.04 g kg–1 at the community scale in China. We observed significant spatial variation in LSC among different ecosystems and taxa. Overall, LSC was higher in arid areas and herbs. Furthermore, higher LSC was observed under environments of drought, low temperatures and intense ultraviolet radiation. Temperature, precipitation, radiation, soil sulfur content and aridity jointly regulated LSC, explaining 79% of the spatial variation. However, LSC was not significantly related to phylogeny. Our results demonstrate that LSC plays an important role in plant adaptations to extreme environments and further extend our understanding of the biological function of sulfur from the organ to the community level. These findings highlight the importance of sulfur metabolism for our understanding of the impact of global climate change on plants.

Key words: functional trait, functional element, leaf sulfur content, plant growth forms, spatial variation, China

硫是植物生长发育和形态建成所必需的营养元素之一,并在其非生物胁迫抗性和环境适应等方面发挥着重要作用。因此,揭示植物叶片硫含量 (leaf sulfur content, LSC)  的空间变异规律和适应机制,将 有助于我们进一步了解植物的进化机制以及功能元素利用策略。本研究采用统一的采样流程和测试方法,构建了中国80个典型生态系统  (包括31个森林、38个草原和11个荒漠)、2207种植物叶片硫含量的实测数据库,系统地评估了不同植物生长型 (PGFs)和生态系统之间LSC的差异,并探讨了LSC的空间变异规律及其主要环境驱动因素。研究结果表明:(1)中国区域自然植被LSC的变化范围为0.15–48.64 g kg-1,平均值为2.13 ± 0.04 g kg-1。(2)LSC在不同生态系统和植被类型之间存在显著的空间变异特征。尤其发现干旱地区或草本植物的LSC较高。叶片在干旱、低温和强紫外线辐射环境中倾向于积累更多的硫,可能是植物增强胁迫生境抗逆性的重要途径。(3)   温度、降水、辐射、土壤硫含量和干旱的交互作用共同调控着LSC,并解释了其79%的空间变异;而系统发育对LSC空间变异没有显著影响。本研究从中国区域尺度揭示了LSC的空间变异规律,证实LSC在植物应对极端环境的重要作用及其机制,拓展了人们对硫的生物功能的认识。

关键词: 功能性状, 功能元素, 叶片硫含量, 植物生长型, 空间变异, 中国