Skip to main content

Individual-level leaf trait variation and correlation across biological and spatial scales

Cite this dataset

Jiang, Feng; Cadotte, Marc; Jin, Guangze (2022). Individual-level leaf trait variation and correlation across biological and spatial scales [Dataset]. Dryad.


Even with increasing interest in the ecological importance of intraspecific trait variation (ITV) for better understanding ecological processes, few studies have quantified ITV in seedlings and assessed constraints imposed by trade-offs and correlations among individual-level leaf traits. Estimating the amount and role of ITV in seedlings is important to understand tree recruitment and long-term forest dynamics. We measured ten different size, economic, and whole leaf traits (lamina and petiole) for more than 2800 seedlings (height ≥ 10 cm and diameter at breast height < 1 cm) in 283 seedling plots, and then quantified the amount of ITV and trait correlations across two biological (intraspecific and interspecific) and spatial (within and among plots) scales. Finally, we explored the effects of trait variance and sample size on the strength of trait correlations. We found about 40% (6~63%) variation in leaf-level traits was explained by ITV across all traits. Lamina and petiole traits were correlated across biological and spatial scales, whereas leaf size traits (e.g., lamina area) were weakly correlated with economics traits (e.g., specific lamina area); lamina mass ratio was strongly related to the petiole length. Trait correlations varied among species, plots, and different scales but there was no evidence that the strength of trait relationships was stronger at broader than finer biological and spatial scales. While larger trait variance increased the strength of correlations, the sample size was the most important factor that was negatively related to the strength of trait correlations. Our results showed that a large amount of trait variation was explained by ITV, which highlighted the importance of considering ITV when using trait-based approaches in seedling ecology. In addition, sample size was an important factor that influenced the strength of trait correlations, which suggests that comparing trait correlations across studies should consider the differences in sample size.


National Natural Science Foundation of China, Award: 32071533