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Morphological and functional traits of herbaceous plants with different functional types in the European Northeast

Dalke, I. V., Novakovskiy, A. B., Maslova, S. P., Dubrovskiy, Y. A.
Plant ecology 2018 v.219 no.11 pp. 1295-1305
acidity, boreal forests, cell respiration, dry matter content, herbaceous plants, leaf area, leaves, minerals, nitrogen, nutrient use efficiency, nutrition, photoperiod, photosynthesis, plant height, soil, soil minerals, Europe
We aimed to identify marker traits indicating the functional types of plants in the European Northeast. We try to answer the following questions. Which ecological factors make the largest contribution to identifying the functional types of plants in the North and can CO₂-exchange and related traits be used as markers? The data were collected from 1000-km latitudinal gradient across middle, north, and far north boreal forests in the east border of Europe. Comparative analysis of 102 species from 36 plant families enabled us to determine the marker traits indicating plant functional types. Competitor species have maximal plant height, comparatively low leaf dry matter content (LDMC), and accumulate high amounts of nitrogen in leaves. These species also have comparatively high photosynthetic and respiration rates. Ruderal species have low values of LDMC, and maximal photosynthetic rate, respiration rate, and photosynthetic nitrogen-use efficiency (PNUE). Slow-growing stress tolerators have a low photosynthetic rate, low respiration rate, and low levels of nitrogen and PNUE. The specific leaf area (SLA) of these plants shows a highly significant correlation with the light regime. In the boreal zone, SLA was found to be more closely related to light availability than to the plant functional type, indicating that SLA is unsuitable for use as a marker trait. We found strong correlations between plant height, respiration rate, and photosynthetic activity and soil nutrition according to Ellenberg values. Soil mineral element contents and acidity were found to have a significant influence on the functional types of plants.