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Adaptative Strategy of Leaf Traits to Drought Conditions: Quercus aliena var. acuteserrata Forest (the Qinling Mts. China)

Wang, Mao, Wan, Pengcheng, Chai, Yongfu, Guo, Yaoxin, Zhang, Xiaofei, Yue, Ming
Polish Journal of Ecology 2015 v.63 no.1 pp. 77-87
Quercus, carbon, deciduous forests, drought, habitats, leaf area, leaves, longevity, mountains, nitrogen content, shrubs, topographic slope, trees, wood, China
In a climax community where all species are sharing relatively similar and stable habitat, there are differences in leaf traits between deciduous trees and shrubs and dominant species and companion species, especially in leaf lifespan (LLs). What are the differences of relationships among leaf traits between deciduous trees and shrubs? What are the mechanisms of this phenomenon? Here, we presented a one-year observation and recorded the LLs followed a modified method in a Quercus aliena var. acuteserrata forest in the north slope of the Qinling Mountains, China. We found that (i) Different species in the same stand performed quite differently in their LLs (P <0.005). Average LLs of shrubs was slightly longer (P = 0.05) than that of deciduous trees. (ii) LLs showed a significant negative correlation with specific leaf area (SLA) and leaf nitrogen content (LNC) (P <0.05) in deciduous trees, however, a significant positive correlation with LNC and leaf carbon content (LCC) (P <0.05) was detected in shrubs. (iii) The comparison of the traits between dominant and companion species in arbor layer and shrub layer showed that there was no significant difference in LLs, LCC and LNC, except SLA in arbor layer. Our study indicated that the amount of light, at the community scale, might be a main factor determining the LLs of wood plants in deciduous forest. The difference between trees and shrubs in relationships among leaf traits suggests that deciduous trees and shrubs may take different strategies to adapt to the environment. SLA is likely to be a marker trait to distinguish dominant and companion species in arbor layer of deciduous broad leaved forest.