, Volume 357, Issue 1-2, pp 407-424
Date: 27 Mar 2012

Relationships between leaf morphological traits, nutrient concentrations and isotopic signatures for Mediterranean woody plant species and communities

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Abstract

Background and aims

Soil factors are driving forces that influence spatial distribution and functional traits of plant species. We test whether two anchor morphological traits—leaf mass per area (LMA) and leaf dry matter content (LDMC)—are significantly related to a broad range of leaf nutrient concentrations in Mediterranean woody plant species. We also explore the main environmental filters (light availability, soil moisture and soil nutrients) that determine the patterns of these functional traits in a forest stand.

Methods

Four morphological and 19 chemical leaf traits (macronutrients and trace elements and δ13C and δ15N signatures) were analysed in 17 woody plant species. Community-weighted leaf traits were calculated for 57 plots within the forest. Links between LMA, LDMC and other leaf traits were analysed at the species and the community level using standardised major axis (SMA) regressions

Results

LMA and LDMC were significantly related to many leaf nutrient concentrations, but only when using abundance-weighted values at community level. Among-traits links were much weaker for the cross-species analysis. Nitrogen isotopic signatures were useful to understand different resource-use strategies. Community-weighted LMA and LDMC were negatively related to light availability, contrary to what was expected.

Conclusion

Community leaf traits have parallel shifts along the environmental factors that determine the community assembly, even though they are weakly related across individual taxa. Light availability is the main environmental factor determining this convergence of the community leaf traits.

Responsible Editor: Hans Lambers.