Altitudinal distribution of evergreen broad-leaved trees and their leaf-size pattern on a humid subtropical mountain, Mt. Emei, Sichuan, China
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Altitudinal distribution of evergreen broad-leaved trees and changes in their leaf sizes were studied on a humid subtropical mountain, Mt. Emei (3099 m a.s.l., 29°34.5′ N, 103°21.5′ E), Sichuan, China. Among the total woody flora of ca. 540 species, evergreen broad-leaved trees account for 88 species in 39 genera and 23 families, corresponding to the northern limit of subtropical evergreen broad-leaved trees. The number of evergreen broad-leaved tree species greatly decreased from the low-altitudinal, evergreen broad-leaved forest zone (600–1500 m) to the mid-altitudinal, mixed forest zone (1500–2500 m), and to the high-altitudinal, coniferous forest zone (2500–3099 m). The overall trend of reduced leaf size toward upper zones was analyzed and documented in detail. The 88 species were assigned to three leaf-size classes: notophylls (48%), microphylls (36%), and mesophylls (16%). The leaf size was relatively small and the specific leaf weight (SLW, mg cm−2) was much larger in high altitude as compared to low altitude. No overall correlation was found between leaf size and SLW, but leaf size decreased as SLW increased toward high altitude for certain species having relatively wide altitudinal ranges. Moreover, leaf size varied with forest stratification: canopy trees were predominantly notophyllous species, while subcanopy and understorey trees were mainly microphyllous species. The tendency is compatible with the trend found in other mountains of East Asia.
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