Chin J Plan Ecolo ›› 2015, Vol. 39 ›› Issue (4): 362-370.doi: 10.17521/cjpe.2015.0035

• Orginal Article • Previous Articles     Next Articles

Slope-related variations in twig and leaf traits of Robinia pseudoacacia in the northern mountains of Lanzhou

SHI Yuan-Chun, ZHAO Cheng-Zhang*(), SONG Qing-Hua, DU Jing, CHEN Jing, WANG Ji-Wei   

  1. Research Center of Wetland Resources Protection and Industrial Development Engineering of Gansu Province, College of Geography and Environmental Science, Northwest Normal University, Lanzhou 730070, China
  • Received:2014-12-05 Accepted:2015-03-17 Online:2015-04-21 Published:2015-04-01
  • Contact: Cheng-Zhang ZHAO
  • About author:

    # Co-first authors

Abstract: <i>Aims</i>

The growth relationship between twigs and leaves is a strategy that plants enhance the ability to use space resources under environmental stresses, and elucidation of this characteristics is important for understanding the phenotypic plasticity of plants in coping with environmental heterogeneity. Our objective was to examine how Robinia pseudoacacia would vary in twig and leaf configuration in response to changes in slope aspect.


In the northern mountains of Lanzhou in Gansu Province, China, 20 transects were laid out horizontally along the contour at intervals of 50 m from an elevation of 1550 m upward in four different slope aspects, and 12 plots were set up along each transect at intervals of 5 m. A handheld GPS was used to measure latitude, longitude and altitude of each plot. Community traits were investigated and all individuals of R. pseudoacacia were used for measurements of the cross-sectional area of twigs, total leaf area, leafing intensity, and average area of a single leaf on each twig. ArcGIS was used to construct the digital elevation model (DEM). The 240 plots were categorized into groups of northern, eastern, western and southern aspects, and the standardized major axis (SMA) estimation method was then used to examine the allometric relationship between the cross-sectional area of twigs, total leaf area, leafing intensity and average area of a single leaf.

<i>Important findings</i>

With changes in the slope aspect from north to east, south and west, the crown density, average tree height and soil moisture of the plant community displayed a pattern of decrease—increase, and the cross-sectional area of twigs, total leaf area and average area of a single leaf of R. pseudoacacia displayed a pattern of decrease—increase and the leafing intensity displayed a pattern of increase—decrease. Significant positive relationships between the cross-sectional area of twigs and total leaf area were found in R. pseudoacacia in all slope aspects (p < 0.05), and the common slope of the regressions was significantly greater than 1; significant negative relationships between leafing intensity and average area of a single leaf were found in all slope aspects (p < 0.05), and the common slope of the regressions was significantly close to -1. In addition, when the slope aspect changed from north to east, south and west, the y-intercepts in the scaling relationships of the cross-sectional area of twigs vs. total leaf area and the leafing intensity vs. individual leaf area both displayed a pattern of decrease—increase. The allometric relationship between twig and leaf with changes in slope aspect of the habitat reflected the response and adaption of plant functional traits to their biotic and abiotic environments and the investment balance mechanism of plant architecture construction.

Key words: Robinia pseudoacacia, cross-sectional area of twigs, total leaf area, leafing intensity, average single leaf area, slope aspect

Table 1

Main characteristics of the transects in different slope aspects (mean ± SE)"

坡向 Aspect 群落特征 Community characteristics 土壤水分
Soil moisture (%)
郁闭度 Crown density (%) 高度 Height (cm)
北坡 North slope 87.151 ± 4.910a 398.547 ± 23.352a 8.779 ± 0.297a
东坡 East slope 79.094 ± 4.012b 341.025 ± 13.221b 7.914 ± 0.380b
南坡 South slope 67.383 ± 2.715c 301.722 ± 15.144c 6.837 ± 0.517c
西坡 West slope 78.779 ± 5.294b 339.448 ± 11.989b 7.848 ± 0.411b

Table 2

Twig and leaf traits of Robinia pseudoacacia in different slope aspects (mean ± SE)"

坡向 Aspect 茎截面积
Cross-sectional area of twigs (mm2)
Total leaf area (cm2)
Leafing intensity (No.·mm-3)
Individual leaf area (mm2)
北坡 North slope 12.892 ± 0.128a 37.695 ± 1.743a 0.014 ± 0.002c 539.848 ± 26.372a
东坡 East slope 12.496 ± 0.224b 33.314 ± 1.609b 0.018 ± 0.001b 478.526 ± 24.131b
南坡 South slope 11.613 ± 0.283c 25.064 ± 1.878c 0.021 ± 0.001a 374.171 ± 21.387c
西坡 West slope 12.245 ± 0.335b 32.129 ± 1.831b 0.017 ± 0.001b 472.809 ± 22.813b

Fig. 1

Relationship between the cross-sectional area of twigs and total leaf area in Robinia pseudoacacia. A, north slope; B, east slope; C, south slope; D, west slope."

Fig. 2

Relationship between leafing intensity and individual leaf area in Robinia pseudoacacia. A, north slope; B, east slope; C, south slope; D, west slope."

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