Chin J Plan Ecolo ›› 2016, Vol. 40 ›› Issue (8): 788-797.doi: 10.17521/cjpe.2016.0003

• Research Articles • Previous Articles     Next Articles

Trade-off between leaf size and vein density of Achnatherum splendens in Zhangye wetland

Ling HAN, Cheng-Zhang ZHAO*(), Ting XU, Wei FENG, Bei-Bei DUAN, Hui-Ling ZHENG   

  1. College of Geography and Environmental Science, Northwest Normal University, Research Center of Wetland Resources Protection and Industrial Development Engineering of Gansu Province, Lanzhou 730070, China
  • Online:2016-08-23 Published:2016-08-10
  • Contact: Cheng-Zhang ZHAO


Aims Trade-offs between leaf size and vein density are the basis of the theory of leaf economics spectrum, and are to understand the relationship between the physical build and physiological metabolism of plant leaves under different degrees of competition for resources. Our objective was to study the changes in the relationship between leaf size and vein density (leaf dry biomass and leaf area) in Achnatherum splendens populations with four plant bundle densities located in the flood plain wetland of Zhangye. Methods The study site was located at floodplain wetlands of Zhangye, Gansu Province, China. Survey and sampling were carried out in the communities that A. splendens dominated. According to the plant bundle density, the A. splendens communities were divided into four density gradients with “bundle” for the sampling units, high density (I, > 12 bundle·m-2), medium density (II, 8-12 bundle·m-2), medium density (III, 4-8 bundle·m-2) and Low density (IV, <4 bundle·m-2). According to the density of each combination, we chose seven (5 m × 5 m) A. splendens samples, resulting in a total of 28 samples (4 × 7). The soil physical and chemical properties of four density gradients were investigated and six samples of A. splendens were used to measure the leaf area, leaf dry biomass and vein density in laboratory, and biomass of different organs was measured after being dried at 85 °C in an oven. 28 plots were categorized into three groups: high, medium and low density, and the standardized major axis (SMA) estimation method was used to examine the allometric relationships between leaf area, leaf dry biomass and vein density. Important findings The results showed that with the population density changed from high, medium, to low, the soil moisture decreased, and soil electric conductivityincreased. The leaf area, leaf biomass and height of A. splendens decreased, and the vein density, specific leaf area and photosynthetically active radiation (PAR) increased gradually. In addition, leaf net photosynthetic rate (Pn), transpiration rate (Tr) and twig number firstly increased then decreased. There was a highly significantly negative correlation (p < 0.01) between the leaf size and vein density on the high- and low-level densities (I, IV), whereas less significant (p < 0.05) on the level of medium density (II, III). The SMA slope of regression equation in the scaling relationships between leaf size and vein density was significantly smaller than -1 (p < 0.05).

Key words: leaf area, leaf dry biomass, vein density, trade-off, Achnatherum splendens, Zhangye wetland

Table 1

Photosynthetic physiological and biological characteristics of Achnatherum splendens under different densities (mean ± SE)"

Plant high (cm)
Twig number
(μmol CO2·m-2·s-1)
(mmol H2O·m-2·s-1)
> 12 bundle·m-2 (I) 161.00 ± 10.24a 113.33 ± 5.29d 13.20 ± 0.12c 6.45 ± 0.02c 636.30 ± 14.18d
8-12 bundle·m-2 (II) 149.67 ± 8.62b 203.67 ± 12.34b 13.83 ± 0.17a 6.58 ± 0.09a 839.20 ± 27.95c
4-8 bundle·m-2 (III) 140.34 ± 7.50b 273.33 ± 15.83a 14.12 ± 0.18a 6.67 ± 0.10a 918.80 ± 36.94b
<4 bundle·m-2 (IV) 130.67 ± 5.56c 165.33 ± 11.90c 13.77 ± 0.13b 6.53 ± 0.03b 1 105.10 ± 40.62a

Fig. 1

Change of leaf morphological traits and soil physical and chemical properties of Achnatherum splendens on different densities (mean ± SE). Different lowercase letters indicate significant differences of different density treatments (p < 0.05). I, high density (>12 bundle·m-2); II, medium density (8-12 bundle·m-2); III, medium density (4-8 bundle·m-2); IV, low density (< 4 bundle·m-2)."

Fig. 2

Relationship between leaf area and vein density of Achnatherum splendens under different levels of densities. I, high density (>12 bundle·m-2); II, medium density (8-12 bundle·m-2); III, medium density (4-8 bundle·m-2); IV, low density (<4 bundle·m-2)."

Fig. 3

Relationship between leaf dry mass and vein density of Achnatherum splendens under different levels of densities. I, high density (>12 bundle·m-2); II, medium density (8-12 bundle·m-2); III, medium density (4-8 bundle·m-2); IV, low density (<4 bundle·m-2)."

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