Chin J Plant Ecol ›› 2023, Vol. 47 ›› Issue (8): 1131-1143.DOI: 10.17521/cjpe.2022.0423

• Research Articles • Previous Articles     Next Articles

Vertical variations in leaf functional traits of three typical ferns in mixed broadleaved- Korean pine forest

ZHAO Meng-Juan, JIN Guang-Ze, LIU Zhi-Li*()   

  1. Center for Ecological Research, Key Laboratory of Sustainable Forest Ecosystem Management-Ministry of Education, Northeast Asia Biodiversity Research Center, Northeast Forestry University, Harbin 150040, China
  • Received:2022-10-21 Accepted:2023-03-27 Online:2023-08-20 Published:2023-03-28
  • Contact: *LIU Zhi-Li(
  • Supported by:
    National Natural Science Foundation of China(31971636);Fundamental Research Funds for the Central Universities(2572022DS13)


Aims Understanding the differences in leaf functional traits and their correlations in ferns at different vertical heights can provide a scientific basis for revealing the resource utilization strategies of large fern fronds.

Methods Individuals of three fern species in a mixed broadleaved-Korean pine (Pinus koraiensis) forest, i.e., Dryopteris crassirhizoma, Athyrium brevifrons and Matteuccia struthiopteris were divided into upper, middle, and lower layers according to the vertical height of leaves. We measured specific leaf area, leaf dry matter content, net photosynthetic rate, instantaneous water use efficiency, leaf nitrogen content and leaf phosphorus content, as well as the light environment and soil factors of each individual plant to reveal the vertical variation patterns and correlations of leaf functional traits.

Important findings (1) Leaf dry matter content of the three fern species increased with the vertical height of the fronds, but specific leaf area showed no variation. The net photosynthetic rate of A. brevifrons and M. struthiopteris showed an increasing trend with the increases of vertical height of fronds, the instantaneous water use efficiency of M. struthiopteris increased and then decreased with the vertical height of the fronds, and leaf nitrogen content gradually decreased; leaf phosphorus content of D. crassirhizoma showed an increase and then decreased trend. (2) There were positive correlations between leaf nitrogen content and specific leaf area, and also between instantaneous water use efficiency and net photosynthetic rate. There were negative correlations between leaf nitrogen content and leaf dry matter content, and between leaf dry matter content and specific leaf area. The correlations among those leaf functional traits did not differ significantly among different vertical heights. (3) Soil available phosphorus content and soil pH were the main factors affecting the variation of leaf functional traits at different vertical heights, with soil available phosphorus content having the highest explanatory degree to the variation of leaf functional traits. Our results indicated that there were vertical differences in leaf functional traits of large ferns in the mixed broadleaved-Korean pine forest, but the rate of change among individual characters was basically constant, the effects of light environment and soil factors on the variation of leaf functional traits differed among vertical heights. This study provided reference for further research on the mechanism of leaf functional traits variation in different vertical heights of ferns in understory.

Key words: leaf functional trait, fern, vertical height, correlation, environmental factor