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Plant Ecology

, Volume 220, Issue 3, pp 305–320 | Cite as

Changes in defense traits of young leaves in subtropical forests succession

  • Taotao Han
  • Jun Wang
  • Hai RenEmail author
  • Huilin Yi
  • Qianmei Zhang
  • Qinfeng Guo
Article
  • 59 Downloads

Abstract

Plants develop diverse adaptive traits in changeable environments, yet whether plant defense traits change during succession remains unclear. In this study, we investigated the young leaf physical traits (i.e., upright orientation of leaves, trichomes, an enhanced cuticle, and a multilayered epidermis) and leaf color trait (i.e., red pigmentation) of dominant plants in three subtropical forests. These forests included a pioneer forest, a mixed coniferous-broadleaved forest, and a monsoon-evergreen broadleaved forest representing early, middle, and later successional stages, respectively. Our results show that the red color trait in young leaves is related to anti-herbivory defense, and the percentage of species with red young leaves is higher in later than in early succession. Physical defense tends to be weaker for red young leaves than for green young leaves in early and middle successions. In addition, the number of defense traits of young leaves increases with succession. We speculate that young leaves in subtropical forests depend increasingly on multiple defense traits during succession because of the increased biotic stresses and environmental complexity in later succession.

Keywords

Adaptation Environmental stress Multiple defense Red leaves Successional stage 

Notes

Acknowledgements

This research was supported by the National Natural Science Foundation of China (no. 31570422) and Guangdong Science and Technology Program (no. 2016A030303044). We thank Mr Yiming Fan for field investigation. Thanks are also due to Prof. Bruce Jaffee for English editing and constructive comments and to anonymous reviewers for their valuable comments on an early version of the manuscript.

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Copyright information

© Springer Nature B.V. 2019

Authors and Affiliations

  • Taotao Han
    • 1
    • 2
  • Jun Wang
    • 1
  • Hai Ren
    • 1
    Email author
  • Huilin Yi
    • 1
  • Qianmei Zhang
    • 1
  • Qinfeng Guo
    • 3
  1. 1.Key Laboratory of Vegetation Restoration and Management of Degraded Ecosystems, Guangdong Provincial Key Laboratory of Applied Botany, South China Botanical GardenChinese Academy of SciencesGuangzhouChina
  2. 2.University of Chinese Academy of SciencesBeijingChina
  3. 3.Eastern Forest Environmental Threat Assessment CenterUSDA Forest ServiceResearch Triangle ParkUSA

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