Chin J Plan Ecolo ›› 2017, Vol. 41 ›› Issue (5): 539-548.doi: 10.17521/cjpe.2016.0285

• Research Articles • Previous Articles     Next Articles

Growth-form regulates the altitudinal variation of interspecific seed mass of woody plants in Mt. Dalaoling, the Three Gorges Region, China

Dao-Xin LI1, Guo LI2, Ze-Hao SHEN3,*(), Shen-Dong XU1, Qing-Yu HAN1, Gong-Fang WANG1, Feng-Lei TIAN1   

  1. 1Administration of the Dalaoling National Reserve in the Three Gorges, Yichang, Hubei 443000, China

    2Research Center of Biodiversity, Chinese Research Academy of Environmental Sciences, Beijing 100012, China

    3College of Urban and Environmental Sciences, Key Laboratory Ministry of Education for Earth Surface Processes, Peking University, Beijing 100871, China
  • Online:2017-06-22 Published:2017-05-10
  • Contact: Ze-Hao SHEN
  • About author:

    KANG Jing-yao(1991-), E-mail:


Aims Seed size is one of the most important characteristics of plant seeds, and has significant implications in plant ecological functions. Exploring the altitudinal pattern of seed size would help to detect environmental constraints on species distribution and understand the linkage between plant ecological function traits Methods The present study measured the quantitative features of seed size, including weight of 1 000 grain seeds, lengths of longer and shorter axes, and analyzed the relationships between seed size and altitude, as well as the influence of growth form. Seed samples were all collected from 201 locally common woody plants (belonging to 59 families and 87 genera) in the Dalaoling Natural Reserve in Yichang City, Hubei Province.Important findings Measured values of the seed mass, the longer axis, and the shorter axis of the 201 woody plant species all follow the lognormal distribution. Measurements of seed mass vary across five orders of magnitude. Significant correlation was found between seed mass, seed length of the longer and shorter axes (R2 = 0.755; 0.819; 0.630, p < 0.01). Moreover, seed mass of trees and small trees are significantly heavier than those of shrubs and woody vines. Seed mass values of evergreen broad leaved species are significantly heavier than those of deciduous broad leaved species and needle leaved species. Seed mass of all 201 species shows a slightly but statistically significant decreasing trend with the increase of altitude. In addition, altitudinal patterns of seed mass varied between species with different growth form. Our results indicated the variation of altitudinal trends of seed mass for different structural components of plant communities, implying the local community structure as a critical aspect of variation in macro-ecological patterns.

Key words: woody plant, seed mass, elevation, growth-form, Dalaoling in the Three Gorges

Fig. 1

The frequency distribution of seed mass (A), seed length (B) and thickness (C), and a comparison between the curves of empirical cumulative frequency distribution (ECFD) and cumulative density function (CDF) of normal distribution, for log10-transformed seed mass, seed length and seed thickness (D, E, F)."

Fig. 2

The correlation between seed mass (mg, log10-transformed) and the length and thickness (mm, both log10-transformed) (A), and the correlation between the length and thickness (B) of seeds."

Fig. 3

Seed mass (log10-transformed) of different growth forms (A) and leaf types (B). a, and b indicate significantly different levels with p < 0.05."

Fig. 4

Altitudinal patterns of seed mass (log10-transformed) of different growth-forms of plant species. A, All species. B, Evergreen-broadleaved species. C, Deciduous-broadleaved species. D, Coniferous species. E, Tree. F, Small tree. G, Shrub. H, Liana."

Table 1

Comparison of linear regression models for seed mass (log10-transformed)"

模型 Model 自变量 Independent variables 自由度 d.f. R2 F p
M1 Elevation, Leaf, GF 194 0.186 8.543 <0.001
M2 Elevation, Leaf, GF, Leaf : GF 191 0.192 6.218 <0.001
M3 Elevation, Leaf, GF, Elevation : GF 191 0.198 6.414 <0.001
M4 Elevation, Leaf, GF, Elevation : Leaf 192 0.216 7.815 <0.001

Table 2

Parameter estimate for the optimal regression model (M4)"

变量 Variables 系数 Coefficients 标准误差 SE t p
截距 Intercept -2.995 8 2.096 4 -1.429 0.155
海拔 Elevation 0.003 0 0.001 5 2.024 0.054
叶-落叶阔叶 Leaf-DB 4.956 2 2.213 7 2.239 <0.050
叶-常绿阔叶 Leaf-EB 7.901 1 2.270 5 3.480 <0.001
生长型-乔木 GF-Tree 2.032 4 0.340 8 5.963 <0.001
生长型-藤本 GF-Liana 0.011 4 0.614 0 0.019 0.985
生长型-小乔 GF-Small tree 1.552 6 0.388 5 3.997 <0.001
海拔 : 落叶阔叶 Elevation : DB -0.003 3 0.001 6 -2.047 <0.050
海拔 : 常绿阔叶 Elevation : EB -0.005 0 0.001 7 -2.982 <0.010
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