Convergence in interspecific leaf trait relationships across diverse taxonomic groups and biomes would have important evolutionary and ecological implications. Such convergence has been hypothesized to result from trade-offs that limit the combination of plant traits for any species. Here we address this issue by testing for biome differences in the slope and intercept of interspecific relationships among leaf traits: longevity, net photosynthetic capacity (Amax), leaf diffusive conductance (Gs), specific leaf area (SLA), and nitrogen (N) status, for more than 100 species in six distinct biomes of the Americas. The six biomes were: alpine tundra–subalpine forest ecotone, cold temperate forest–prairie ecotone, montane cool temperate forest, desert shrubland, subtropical forest, and tropical rain forest. Despite large differences in climate and evolutionary history, in all biomes mass-based leaf N (Nmass), SLA, Gs, and Amax were positively related to one another and decreased with increasing leaf life span. The relationships between pairs of leaf traits exhibited similar slopes among biomes, suggesting a predictable set of scaling relationships among key leaf morphological, chemical, and metabolic traits that are replicated globally among terrestrial ecosystems regardless of biome or vegetation type. However, the intercept (i.e., the overall elevation of regression lines) of relationships between pairs of leaf traits usually differed among biomes. With increasing aridity across sites, species had greater Amax for a given level of Gs and lower SLA for any given leaf life span. Using principal components analysis, most variation among species was explained by an axis related to mass-based leaf traits (Amax, N, and SLA) while a second axis reflected climate, Gs, and other area-based leaf traits.
Peter B. Reich, David S. Ellsworth, Michael B. Walters, James M. Vose, Charles Gresham, John C. Volin, and William D. Bowman 1999. GENERALITY OF LEAF TRAIT RELATIONSHIPS: A TEST ACROSS SIX BIOMES. Ecology 80:1955–1969.
Reich, Peter B.; Ellsworth, David S.; Walters, Michael B.; Vose, James M.; Gresham, Charles; Volin, John C.; Bowman, William D..
Generality of leaf traits relationships: a test across six biomes.
Ecological Society of America.
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