Potential tradeoffs between intraspecific and interspecific trait variations along an environmental gradient in a subtropical forest

Original Paper


There has been growing attention to intraspecific variation in trait-based plant ecology. However, studies on these changes across ontogenetic stages and the potential trade-offs with interspecific traits along environmental gradients are rare. In this study, we measured six wood and bark traits of 1030 trees of six species (Castanopsis nigrescens; C. carlesii; Lithocarpus polystachyus; L. synbalanos; Ormosia glaberrima; O. pachycarpa) from a 10-ha plot in a subtropical forest. Mean intraspecific variation in bark thickness and bark percentage to DBH was more than twice that for wood density and bark density. Bark thickness and bark percentage showed a consistent trend with increasing tree size. Small-tree traits were more variable than the same traits in larger trees. Altitude, convexity and soil nutrients explained the majority of the variations in the six traits, while sibling species had similar relationships between traits and environmental variables. Trees with dense wood and thin bark were usually found on steep slopes at lower altitudes. Our findings show intraspecific trait variability has different spatial patterns compared with interspecific variabilities along an environmental gradient.


Environmental heterogeneity Tradeoffs Intraspecific and interspecific variations Wood/bark traits Subtropical forest 



We would like to thank Fangliang He and Yuxin Chen for their assistance in writing this manuscript. We also thank Weinan Ye, Buhang Li, Xubing Liu and Meng Xu for their assistance in the field.


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Copyright information

© Northeast Forestry University and Springer-Verlag GmbH Germany, part of Springer Nature 2018

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Department of Ecology, School of Life Sciences/State Key Laboratory of BiocontrolSun Yat-sen UniversityGuangzhouPeople’s Republic of China

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