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Global patterns of the leaf economics spectrum in wetlands

Citation

Pan, Yingji et al. (2020), Global patterns of the leaf economics spectrum in wetlands, Dryad, Dataset, https://doi.org/10.5061/dryad.v6wwpzgsq

Abstract

The leaf economics spectrum (LES) describes consistent correlations among a variety of leaf traits that reflect a gradient from conservative to acquisitive plant strategies. So far, whether the LES holds in wetland plants at a global scale has been unclear. Using data on 365 wetland species from 151 studies, we find that wetland plants in general show a shift within trait space along the same common slope as observed in non-wetland plants, with lower leaf mass per area, higher leaf nitrogen and phosphorus, faster photosynthetic rates, and shorter leaf life span compared to non-wetland plants. We conclude that wetland plants tend to cluster at the acquisitive end of the LES. The presented global quantifications of the LES in wetland plants enhance our understanding of wetland plant strategies in terms of resources acquisition and allocation, and provide a stepping-stone to developing trait-based approaches for wetland ecology.

Methods

We defined wetland plants as plants that mainly occur in (or are exposed to) wetland habitats as described by the Ramsar Convention 17. We summarized the 3 major groups including 42 sub-groups wetland habitat types in Ramsar Convention to be 12 categories (as estuary, intertidal wetland, mangrove swamps, rivers and lakes, brackish and saline inland wetlands, permanent non-forested wetlands, temporary non-forested wetlands, permanent forested wetlands, artificial waterbodies, marsh, bog, fen). We collected leaf economics traits for wetland plants on a global scale including those plants exposed to intermittent/permanent wetland conditions (waterlogged or flooded) from both field and experiment measurements. The wetland plant leaf economics trait dataset was compiled based on a systematic search in Web of Science and Google Scholar (last updated on the 5th June 2018). The literature search included permutations of the following keywords: wetland plants, marsh plant, bog plant, isoetid, aquatic plants, macrophytes, submerged plants, floating-leaved plants, emergent plants, mangroves, leaf economics traits, leaf economics spectrum, leaf nitrogen, leaf phosphorus, SLA, LMA, leaf life span, photosynthetic rate, underwater photosynthetic rate, dark respiration rate. Additionally, our network of wetland experts from around the world contributed recommendations for possible literature that we had overlooked. Finally, we added unpublished data of our own and of our network. We did not include data from other trait databases that are dominated by terrestrial records, including TRY, because the few records available for wetland plants in these databases do not have a sufficiently detailed habitat description that would allow the differentiation between waterlogged and submerged required for our analysis.

We followed the nomination system in The Plant List (http://www.theplantlist.org) to unify all plant synonyms names from the original references to a unique and consistent accepted name.

We supplemented the trait observations in our database with Ellenberg moisture indicator values. The Ellenberg moisture indicator is a classic index which generally reflects the plants’ adaptation/acclimation to habitat wetness. Plant species can be categorized into 12 levels from those occupying very dry habitats (level 1) to strictly aquatic plants (level 12) 40. For the current meta-analysis, we selected plant species with Ellenberg moisture value > 7 to represent wetland plants, as described in detail in Supplementary Methods. For these species, we selected records of the six LES traits (leaf nitrogen, leaf phosphorus, leaf dry mass per unit area, leaf life span, photosynthetic rate, and dark respiration rate). We took trait values for the same six traits for non-wetland plant traits (of 1569 species) from the GLOPNET database for comparison 3. For a consistent analysis of trait-trait trade-offs, we expressed all leaf economics traits on a mass basis. Mass-based and area-based traits can be interconverted via a division by LMA. The mean value for each trait of each species was used (using the median did not alter the interpretation of the results, data not shown). We used species-mean values to attain a sufficient number of trait-trait combinations for a given species. We assume that the trait observations used for calculating the species-mean values were representative for the environmental/growth conditions in which the species occurs. Possible uncertainty in species trait mean values (for example due to intra-specific variation) will then result in noise in trait-trait relationships. In total, 365 wetland species of 184 families from 151 studies were compiled and analyzed, comprising the largest dataset on wetland plant traits to our knowledge. A map of the sampling sites with accurate spatial location information can be found in Supplementary Figure 1. The species are from varied life forms, including grasses, sedges, seagrasses, shrubs/trees, emergent, floating-leaved, isoetid, and submerged plants. Traits of most (308) species had been measured at waterlogged conditions, with submerged measurements being available for 75 species.

Usage Notes

The study is a meta-analysis of literature data. We designed a database in which for a given species observations on traits were compiled. For each species record, we thus noted the species, study system, environmental conditions (if available), and for each trait average, sample size, standard deviation and unit. We also documented the reference from which the record had been derived. We only compiled data for species normally occurring in wetlands, or measured at wetland conditions.

We collected leaf economics traits for wetland plants on a global scale including those individuals exposed to intermittent/permanent wetland conditions (waterlogged or flooded) from both field and experiment measurements. The wetland plant leaf economics trait dataset was compiled based on a systematic search in Web of Science and Google Scholar (last updated on the 5th June 2018). The literature search included permutations of the following keywords: wetland plants, marsh plant, bog plant, isoetid, aquatic plants, macrophytes, submerged plants, floating-leaved plants, emergent plants, mangroves, leaf economics traits, leaf economics spectrum, leaf nitrogen, leaf phosphorus, SLA, LMA, leaf life span, photosynthetic rate, underwater photosynthetic rate, dark respiration rate. Additionally, our network of wetland experts from around the world contributed recommendations for possible literature that we had not retrieved. Finally, we added unpublished data of our own and of our network. In combination, we aimed to be as complete as possible without predetermined sample size. Any constraint because of the sample size obtained were accounted for in the statistical analysis.

The data in the database refer to publications of which the oldest are from the 1960s and the most recent from publications from the year 2018. We did not restrict our search to specific time periods, as we considered the observed trait values to be representative of the plant species involved. Data are meant to represent global patterns, with most data coming from Europe, United states, China and Australia/New Zealand.

Funding

China Scholarship Council, Award: 201606140037