Chin J Plant Ecol ›› 2024, Vol. 48 ›› Issue (3): 364-376.DOI: 10.17521/cjpe.2023.0137

• Research Articles • Previous Articles     Next Articles

Leaf trait variation and trade-offs among growth types of broadleaf plants in Xiao Hinggan Mountains

FAN Hong-Kun, ZENG Tao, 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:2023-05-17 Accepted:2024-01-30 Online:2024-03-20 Published:2024-04-24
  • Contact: *(
  • Supported by:
    National Key R&D Program of China(2022YFD2201100);National Natural Science Foundation of China(32071533);Fundamental Research Funds for the Central Universities(2572022DS13)


Aims Patterns of leaf trait variation and correlation have long been a key aspect in unraveling plant responses to climate change. However, the specifics of how these patterns of leaf structural traits and photosynthetic physiological characteristics align and differ across growth types of broadleaf plants remain unclear.

Methods This study focused on 18 dominant or common broadleaf species in a mixed broadleaf-Korean pine (Pinus koraiensis) forest. We measured four structural traits (leaf area (LA), leaf thickness (LT), leaf dry matter content (LDMC) and leaf mass per area (LMA)) and four photosynthetic physiological traits (leaf chlorophyll value (SPAD), intercellular CO2 concentration (Ci), stomatal conductance (Gs) and net photosynthetic rate (Pn)). We analyzed the variation and correlations between structural and physiological traits across different growth types of broadleaf plants.

Important findings Leaf functional traits displayed variation ranges spanning from 7.73% to 74.54%. Interspecific differences accounted for the majority of variability for LA and LT, while growth type primarily drove variation in Ci, SPAD, LDMC, and LMA. Gs and Pn variation originate mainly from intraspecific differences. There were significant differences among growth types for all leaf traits. Specifically, herbs showed significantly higher LA, LT, and Ci compared to shrubs and trees, trees exhibited significantly elevated LMA, LDMC, SPAD, Pn, and Gs compared to shrubs and herbs. There were significant isometric relationships between Pn and LMA, LDMC among growth types, with slopes above 1. For SPAD versus LA, LT, LDMC, LMA, along with Ci versus LT, LDMC, LMA, slopes remained under 1, indicating allometric growth relationships. Herbs displayed a resource-acquisitive strategy, while trees adopted a relatively conservative strategy. Falling intermediate, shrubs struck a balance, possibly linked to the light levels across their habitats. Investigating trade-off and connections between leaf structure and photosynthetic physiology proves critical for understanding resource acquisition and allocation mechanism in plants.

Key words: functional trait, leaf photosynthetic characteristics, leaf structural traits, leaf economic spectrum