Chin J Plant Ecol ›› 2022, Vol. 46 ›› Issue (6): 678-686.DOI: 10.17521/cjpe.2022.0005

• Research Articles • Previous Articles     Next Articles

Leaf economics spectrum of broadleaved seedlings and its relationship with defense traits in a temperate forest

CHENG Si-Qi1, JIANG Feng1, JIN Guang-Ze1,2,*()   

  1. 1Center for Ecological Research, Northeast Forestry University, Harbin 150040, China
    2Key Laboratory of Sustainable Forest Ecosystem Management -Ministry of Education, Northeast Asia Biodiversity Research Center, Northeast Forestry University, Harbin 150040, China
  • Received:2022-01-06 Accepted:2022-04-28 Online:2022-06-20 Published:2022-06-09
  • Contact: JIN Guang-Ze
  • Supported by:
    National Natural Science Foundation of China(32071533)


Aims Understanding the trade-offs between leaf functional traits has long been a hot topic in ecological research.

Methods In a broadleaved Korean pine (Pinus koraiensis) forest and a spruce-fir valley forest in the Liangshui National Nature Reserve, Heilongjiang Province, we measured 5 leaf economic traits and 4 leaf defense traits for seedlings of 8 tree species and 11 shrub species, to evaluate trait variation across species life forms and forest types, as well as trait correlations.

Important findings There was no significant difference in leaf traits between the seedlings of trees and shrubs. The total phenolic content and tannin content of plants in the spruce-fir valley forest were significantly higher than those in broadleaved Korean pine forest. Compared with broadleaved Korean pine forest, the spruce-fir valley forest has lower under-canopy light intensity but higher air and soil moisture, which is more conducive to the aggregation of natural enemies. This stronger biological interaction may in turn drives seedlings to invest more on their defense traits in spruce-fir forest. Leaf chlorophyll content was positively correlated with specific leaf area, leaf nitrogen and phosphorus content. Leaf nitrogen content was positively correlated with leaf phosphorus content. Moreover, there was a significant and positive correlation between leaf defense traits. Leaf chlorophyll and nitrogen content were negatively correlated with total phenolic content, tannin content and content of flavonoids. This suggests the existence of a trade-off between leaf carbon economics and defense. The seedlings of trees and shrubs had similar carbon economics strategies. The results of this study have implications for predicting forest dynamics and community composition based on leaf functional traits.

Key words: trade-off strategies, leaf economics spectrum, leaf defense, seedlings, principal component analysis