Covariation in leaf and root traits for native and non-native grasses along an altitudinal gradient in New Zealand
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- Craine, J.M. & Lee, W.G. Oecologia (2003) 134: 471. doi:10.1007/s00442-002-1155-6
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Across 30 grassland sites in New Zealand that ranged from native alpine grasslands to low elevation improved pastures, there were consistent patterns of leaf and root traits and significant differences between native and non-native grasses. Plants of high altitude sites have low N concentrations in both their leaves and roots, have thick leaves and roots, yet no differences in tissue density or photosynthetic water use efficiency when compared to plants of low altitude sites. Both the leaves and roots of the low altitude plants were enriched in 15N relative to the plants of higher altitude, indicating that the low-N set of traits is associated with a more closed N cycle at high altitude. A second independent set of correlations shows that plants of wetter habitats have lower photosynthetic water use efficiency (more negative ∂13C) and lower leaf and root tissue density than the plants of drier sites. For both leaves and roots, plants of native species consistently had traits associated with lower resource availability: lower N concentrations, denser tissues, more negative ∂15N, and more positive ∂13C than non-native species. If root %N is correlated with root longevity as has been shown in other systems, root longevity may be able to be predicted from simple measurements of leaf %N, though a hysteresis in the relationship between leaf and root N concentrations may make prediction of high longevity roots difficult.