Chin J Plant Ecol ›› 2015, Vol. 39 ›› Issue (10): 971-979.doi: 10.17521/cjpe.2015.0094

• Orginal Article • Previous Articles     Next Articles

Biomass allocation strategies within a leaf: Implication for leaf size optimization

Shao-An PAN1, Guo-Quan PENG2, Dong-Mei YANG1,*()   

  1. 1College of Chemistry and Life Sciences, Zhejiang Normal University, Jinhua, Zhejiang 321004, China
    2Qinling National Botanical Garden, Xi’an, 710061, China
  • Online:2015-10-24 Published:2015-10-01
  • Contact: Dong-Mei YANG

Abstract: <i>Aims</i>

The variations in leaf size result from the integrated effects of many factors. Study of the mechanism to reach the optimum leaf size could help us better understand plant adaption and evolution, and plant life history strategies. Here we aim to test the hypothesis that leaf size is affected by the biomass allocation strategy within a leaf.


The relationships between leaf size and different biomass partitioning patterns within a leaf were studied for 19 evergreen and 30 deciduous broadleaved woody species from Qingliang Mountain, Zhejiang, China. The standardized major axis estimation method was used to examine the scaling relationship between lamina size and petiole size within a leaf. The relationship between leaf size and support investment ratio within a leaf was estimated by the Model Type I regression analysis.

<i>Important findings</i>

Biomass allocation in petiole increased with leaf size similarly in both evergreen and deciduous leaves, which resulted from the significant allometric scaling relationship between petiole mass and lamina mass (and area) with slopes significantly larger than 1.0, independent of leaf habit. However, evergreen species were found to have a greater petiole mass at a given lamina mass or area than deciduous species, which may be due to their higher demand for mechanic support and resistance to freezing-induced embolism in petioles. Results suggest that leaf size could be affected by the fraction of support investment within a leaf.

Key words: allometric scaling, biomass allocation, leaf habit, leaf size, support investments

Table 1

Leaf functional traits of different functional groups in Qingliang Mountain (mean ± SE)"

Functional group
No. of samples
Leaf area (cm2)
Leaf fresh mass (g)
Leaf dry mass (g)
dry mass ratio
dry mass ratio
落叶 Deciduous 30 31.351 ± 3.634b 0.430 ± 0.051 0.156 ± 0.019 0.059 ± 0.006 0.055 ± 0.005
常绿 Evergreen 19 19.783 ± 3.526a 0.443 ± 0.087 0.167 ± 0.024 0.061 ± 0.009 0.056 ± 0.007

Fig. 1

Relationships between petiole/leaf dry mass ratio and lamina area (A), leaf fresh mass (B) and leaf dry mass (C)."

Table 2

Relationships between leaf size and leaf biomass of supporting organs of woody species in Qingliang Mountain using standardized major axis (SMA) regression. All scaling relationships were highly significant (p < 0.001)"

Index (y-axis-x-axis)
Functional group
No. of samples
Coefficient of determination
Slope (95% confidence interval)
Leaf area - petiole dry mass
落叶 Deciduous 30 0.805 0.603 (0.509, 0.715)
常绿 Evergreen 19 0.883 0.617 (0.519, 0.735)
Lamina dry mass - petiole dry mass
落叶 Deciduous 30 0.794 0.615 (0.516, 0.732)
常绿 Evergreen 19 0.876 0.659 (0.551, 0.788)

Fig. 2

Cross-species relationships between leaf petiole dry mass and lamina area (A) and lamina dry mass (B)."

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