Chin J Plan Ecolo ›› 2018, Vol. 42 ›› Issue (5): 562-572.doi: 10.17521/cjpe.2017.0270

• Research Articles • Previous Articles     Next Articles

Variations of plant functional traits and adaptive strategy of woody species in a karst forest of central Guizhou Province, southwestern China

ZHONG Qiao-Lian1,2,3,LIU Li-Bin1,2,4,XU Xin1,2,3,YANG Yong1,2,3,GUO Yin-Ming1,2,3,XU Hai-Yang1,2,3,CAI Xian-Li1,2,3,NI Jian1,2,4,*()   

  1. 1 State Key Laboratory of Environmental Geochemistry, Institute of Geochemistry, Chinese Academy of Sciences, Guiyang 550081, China
    2 Puding Karst Ecosystem Research Station, Chinese Academy of Sciences, Puding, Guizhou 562100, China
    3 University of Chinese Academy of Sciences, Beijing 100049, China
    4 College of Chemistry and Life Sciences, Zhejiang Normal University, Jinhua, Zhejiang 321004, China
  • Received:2017-10-29 Revised:2018-03-27 Online:2018-07-20 Published:2018-05-20
  • Contact: Jian NI
  • Supported by:
    Supported by the National Natural Science Foundation(41471049);the National Key Basic Research Program for Global Change(2013CB956704)


Aims The aims are to characterize key plant functional traits and their interactions of woody species growing in special and harsh karst habitats, and to explore their potential ways in adapting harsh karst habitats.

Methods A comprehensive survey of nine plant functional traits (including above- and below-ground ones) was conducted in a 100 m × 30 m permanent plot in the Tianlongshan Mountain of Puding County, central Guizhou Province, southwestern China in the summer 2016. Five dominant tree species (Carpinus pubescens, Machilus cavaleriei, Itea yunnanensis, Platycarya strobilacea, Lithocarpus confinis), three shrubs (Zanthoxylum ovalifolium, Stachyurus obovatus, Rhamnus heterophylla) and two vines (Rosa cymosa and Dalbergia hancei) in an evergreen and deciduous broadleaved mixed forest were chosen as target species. Nine traits of leaf, stem, branch and root were investigated and measured. Key features of these nine functional traits of ten woody species were numerically characterized. Traits variations among plant species, life form and leaf phenology group were further investigated. Relationships among key functional traits and between above- and below-ground traits were statistically analyzed.

Important findings (1) Nine traits varied in varying degrees. The maximum and minimum coefficient of interspecific variation were the fine root tissue density (FRTD) and twig dry-matter content (TDMC), 96.47% and 11.67%, respectively. Similarly, the largest and smallest coefficients of intraspecific variation were also FRTD and TDMC, 51.44% and 6.83%, respectively; (2) At the interspecific level, among different species FRTD had no significant difference, but other traits including specific root length (SRL), leaf thickness (LT), leaf area (LA), specific leaf area (SLA), leaf dry-matter content (LDMC), leaf tissue density (LTD), TDMC and twig tissue density (TTD) showed significant differences (p < 0.01). At the intraspecific level, however, SLA showed significant difference, and differences of other traits were not significant. (3) There was a significant correlation between most leaf and branch traits, and SRL vs. SLA were negatively correlated. However, there was no significant correlation among other root traits and leaf and twig traits. In a word, compared to the functional traits in tree species of non-karst evergreen broad-leaved forests in the same latitude, karst woody plants in Puding had a series of functional traits, such as smaller LA, SLA and larger LDMC and LTD and so on, which are beneficial to reducing transpiration and storing nutrient. This may be its main ecological strategy for adapting to arid and poor karst environments.

Key words: karst forest, life form, growth form, trait combination, intraspecific variation, interspecific variation

Table 1

The selected ten dominant woody species in a karst evergreen and deciduous broad-leaved mixed forest in central Guizhou Province, China"

Growth form
Life form
Sample individuals
Leaf texture
安顺润楠 Machilus cavaleriei 乔木 Tree 常绿 Evergreen 20 革质 Leathery
云南鼠刺 Itea yunnanensis 乔木 Tree 常绿 Evergreen 20 薄革质 Thinly leathery
窄叶石栎 Lithocarpus confinis 乔木 Tree 常绿 Evergreen 21 厚纸质 Thickly papery
化香树 Platycarya strobilacea 乔木 Tree 落叶 Deciduous 25 纸质 Papery
云贵鹅耳枥 Carpinus pubescens 乔木 Tree 落叶 Deciduous 20 厚纸质 Thickly papery
刺异叶花椒 Zanthoxylum ovalifolium 灌木 Shrub 常绿 Evergreen 20 革质 Leathery
倒卵叶旌节花 Stachyurus obovatus 灌木 Shrub 常绿 Evergreen 20 革质或亚革质 Leathery or subcoriaceous
异叶鼠李 Rhamnus heterophylla 灌木 Shrub 常绿 Evergreen 20 纸质 Papery
小果蔷薇 Rosa cymosa 藤本 Liana 常绿 Evergreen 20 薄纸质 Thinly papery
藤黄檀 Dalbergia hancei 藤本 Liana 落叶 Deciduous 20 膜质 Membranous

Table 2

Characteristics of dominant woody plant functional traits in the karst forest"

Mean ± SD
Coefficient of variation (%)
叶片厚度 Leaf thickness (mm) 0.17 ± 0.07 0.03 0.33 39.41
叶面积 Leaf area (cm2) 17.74 ± 10.44 2.15 69.28 58.85
比叶面积 Specific leaf area (cm2?g-1) 134.44 ± 45.80 55.35 281.34 34.07
叶干物质含量 Leaf dry-matter content (g?g-1) 0.40 ± 0.06 0.28 0.69 14.79
叶组织密度 Leaf tissue density (g?cm-3) 0.54 ± 0.13 0.27 1.07 24.07
小枝干物质含量 Twig dry-matter content of branchlets (g?g-1) 0.48 ± 0.06 0.37 0.64 11.67
小枝组织密度 Twig tissue density (g?cm-3) 0.69 ± 0.19 0.28 2.50 27.53
比根长 Specific root length (cm?g-1) 251.91 ± 128.79 54.56 987.41 51.12
细根组织密度 Fine root tissue density (g?cm-3) 0.85 ± 0.82 0.12 7.33 96.47

Fig. 1

Functional traits value of dominant woody species in the karst forest. The circle in the box plot indicates the abnormal value; the percentage of data in the figure is the coefficient of variation; 1-10 represent species in the ordinate; the species number 1, Machilus cavaleriei; 2, Itea yunnanensis; 3, Lithocarpus confinis; 4, Carpinus pubescens; 5, Platycarya strobilacea; 6, Zanthoxylum ovalifolium; 7, Rhamnus heterophylla; 8, Stachyurus obovatus; 9, Rosa cymosa; 10, Dalbergia hancei. A, leaf thickness (LT). B, leaf area (LA). C, specific leaf area (SLA). D, leaf dry-matter content (LDMC). E, leaf tissue density (LTD). F, twig dry-matter content of branchlets (TDMC). G , twig tissue density (TTD). H, specific root length (SRL). I, fine root tissue density (FRTD)."

Table 3

Plant functional traits in different growth and life forms (mean ± SD) and (interspecific-intraspecific) coefficient of variation"

LT (mm) LA (cm2) SLA (cm2?g-1) LDMC (g?g-1) LTD (g?cm-3) TDMC (g?g-1) TTD (g?cm-3) SRL (cm?g-1) FRTD (g?cm-3)
乔木 Tree 0.19 ± 0.06a (33.25%/
24.66 ± 9.02a (36.59%/
115.64 ± 44.16a (28.18%/
0.42 ± 0.05a (11.59%/
0.53 ± 0.10a (19.19%/
0.48 ± 0.06a (11.48%/
0.71 ± 0.11a (15.50%/
237.89 ± 89.59a (37.66%/
0.90 ± 0.93a (102.97%/
灌木 Shrub 0.16±0.06b
12.3 ± 6.62b (53.85%/
143.49 ± 35.369b (24.64%/
0.35 ± 0.05b (14.31%/
0.50 ± 0.15a (30.47%/
0.49 ± 0.06a (12.66%/
0.68 ± 0.17a (24.70%/
271.09 ± 179.73a (66.30%/
0.88 ± 0.89a (100.61%/
藤本 Liana 0.11 ± 0.04c (35.94%/
7.43 ± 1.48c (19.95%/
169.689 ± 40.13c (23.65%/
0.41 ± 0.06c (13.86%/
0.61 ± 0.15b (24.52%/
0.46 ± 0.04b (9.80%/
0.63 ± 0.32a (50.94%/
255.17 ± 110.55a (43.32%/
0.69 ± 0.21a (30.37%/
0.17 ± 0.07d (39.34%/
18.15 ± 10.18d (56.12%/
131.19 ± 43.38d (34.47%/
0.39 ± 0.06d (16.29%/
0.54 ± 0.13d (27.98%/
0.48 ± 0.05d (11.73%/
0.71 ± 0.14d (20.81%/
238.14 ± 145.15d (60.95%/
0.88 ± 0.92d (93.11%/
0.14 ± 0.04e (29.49%/
16.84 ± 11.08e (65.79%/
145.85 ± 41.79e (30.12%/
0.43 ± 0.04e (9.60%/
0.55 ± 0.08d (16.58%/
0.50 ± 0.05e (10.65%/
0.72 ± 0.27d (36.91%/
237.66 ± 94.71d (34.61%/
0.91 ± 0.963d (102.4%2/

Table 4

Effects of species, growth form and life form on trait variations (R2 value)"

变量 Variables LT (mm) LA (cm2) SLA (cm2?g-1) LDMC (g?g-1) LTD (g?cm-3) TDMC (g?g-1) TTD (g?cm-3) SRL (cm?g-1) FRTD (g?cm-3)
物种 Species 0.86 0.78 0.67 0.75 0.74 0.64 0.19 0.18 0.08
生长型 Growth form 0.13 0.50 0.16 0.31 0.02 0.06 0.03 0.02 0.01
生活型 Life form 0.08 0.01 0.03 0.12 0.01 0.04 0.00 0.02 0.00
Growth form × Life form
0.07 0.55 0.49 0.35 0.19 0.02 0.17 0.37 0.04

Table 5

Correlation coefficient between plant functiolal traits of ten dominant woody species in the karst forest"

LA 0.65**
SLA -0.83** -0.56**
LDMC -0.21** 0.01 -0.22**
LTD -0.70** -0.47** 0.34** 0.64**
TDMC -0.38** 0.41** 0.17* 0.43** 0.45**
TTD -0.17* 0.10 -0.02 0.28** 0.29** 0.34**
SRL 0.12 -0.00 -0.18* 0.12 -0.13 0.09 0.04
FRTD 0.02 -0.31** -0.09 0.10 0.12 0.02 -0.01 -0.00
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