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Variations in leaf traits of Juniperus przewalskii from an extremely arid and cold environment

Wang, Fang, Gou, Xiaohua, Zhang, Fen, Wang, Yanfang, Yu, Ailing, Zhang, Junzhou, Fonti, Patrick, Liu, Jianguo
The Science of the total environment 2019 v.689 pp. 434-443
Juniperus przewalskii, arid zones, climatic factors, cold, cold zones, drought, dry environmental conditions, dry matter content, ecology, growing season, leaves, nitrogen, nitrogen content, phosphorus, semiarid zones, soil nutrients, stoichiometry, temperature, China
How leaf traits vary with environmental and climatic variables in cold and arid environments is an essential issue in environmental ecology. Here, we analyzed the variations in leaf nitrogen (N) and phosphorus (P) stoichiometry and leaf dry matter content (LDMC) in Qilian juniper (Juniperus przewalskii Kom.) growing in 14 environmentally different plots on the northeastern Tibetan Plateau. The results showed that the N and P concentrations, N:P ratio and LDMC of Qilian juniper were 10.89 mg.g−1, 1.04 mg.g−1, 10.80 and 483.06 mg.g−1, respectively. The spatial coefficients of the variations in leaf N and P stoichiometry were significantly higher than the seasonal ones, and the correlations of leaf N and P concentrations with spatial variables were stronger than their correlations with the season. During the growing season, only the leaf N concentration and N:P ratio significantly increased. Soil nutrients were highly positively significantly correlated with leaf P concentrations but negatively correlated with the N:P ratio and LDMC. However, leaf N concentrations showed no significant correlations with soil nutrients. We suggest that the effects of temperature on the N concentration and LDMC were stronger than the effects of drought, while those on the P concentration and N:P ratio were weaker. Drought reduced leaf N and P concentrations and increased the N:P ratio and LDMC. In the arid region, with an increasing mean annual temperature (MAT), leaf N concentration significantly decreased, and LDMC significantly increased. In the semi-arid region, as MAT increased, leaf N and P concentrations significantly increased and LDMC and the N:P ratio significantly decreased. These opposite results supported the growth rate hypothesis that plant N and P concentrations increase while the N:P ratio and LDMC decrease as the growth rate increases.