VARIATION AND TRADEOFF OF LEAF TRAITS OF KARST SHRUB IN SOUTHWEST CHINA

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Zhigang Zou, Fuping Zeng, Zhaoxia Zeng, Jianxiong Liao, Hu Du, Hao Zhang,

Abstract

Long-term droughts were found to have guided the environmental selection of shrub plant characteristics in a karst region of China, as the plants were found to have developed a set of leaf trait combinations, including a small specific leaf area (SLA), leaf area (LA), and large leaf dry matter content (LDMC), that are known to be suitable for drought environments. Leaf traits of plants are not only the intuitive and operable taxonomic traits in plant taxonomy, but also reflect the responses and adaptations of plants to their habitats. This is helpful when trying to understand the role of environmental screening and when filtering plant functional traits. The objective of this investigation was to determine the leaf trait variations, adaptations, and patterns in the shrubs from a karst region in China. We investigated 11 leaf traits to quantify the variations in their trade-offs and the trait–habitat species relationships for the shrubs at the Huanjiang karst ecosystem observation and research station, China, using multivariate analyses. There were significant intraspecific and interspecific changes in the leaf traits of the shrub plants, and there were differences among the traits. Except for carbon mass, nitrogen area, and phosphorous area, the interspecific variations of the leaf traits were generally higher than the interspecific variation. The correlation between the leaf traits in the karst shrubs was also significant. Species differences had a higher explanatory degree for the leaf traits than topography or soil nutrients. The findings of this study will enhance our understanding of the variations in leaf traits in the karst shrub regions and the adaptative strategies of the plants in degraded habitats. Furthermore, these results may provide scientific information to help guide vegetation recovery programs in the karst region of southwest China.

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