Data from: Leaf carbon and oxygen isotopes are coordinated with the leaf economics spectrum in Mediterranean rangeland species
Prieto, Iván et al. (2018), Data from: Leaf carbon and oxygen isotopes are coordinated with the leaf economics spectrum in Mediterranean rangeland species, Dryad, Dataset, https://doi.org/10.5061/dryad.n848j
The leaf economics spectrum (LES) describes covariation of traits relevant to carbon and nutrient economics across plant species, but much less is known about the relationship between the LES and leaf water economy. We propose an approach combining the measurement of two leaf traits related to water use economy, leaf carbon (δ13C) and oxygen (δ18O) isotopic composition, and the measurement of leaf morphological and nutrient traits to investigate the link between leaf carbon and nutrient economics and water use. We tested the relationships between leaf traits linked to carbon and nutrient use within the LES and water use traits using leaf δ18O as a proxy of stomatal conductance (gs) and δ13C as a proxy of intrinsic water use efficiency (WUEi) across 15 Mediterranean rangeland species grown in an irrigated common garden and in a natural grassland in Southern France. The target species spanned a wide range of variation in leaf morphological and nutrient trait values and a wide range of leaf δ18O and δ13C values. PCA analysis revealed multiple associations among leaf morphology, nutrients and isotopic composition, with the first axis alone explaining 56.0% of the total variation across species. Leaf δ18O and δ13C covaried with leaf morphology and leaf nutrient concentrations along a single resource use axis. Species with high leaf δ18O and δ13C (low gs and high WUEi) exhibited a resource-conservative strategy (high LDMC, low leaf N, P and K) whereas species with low leaf δ18O and δ13C (high gs and low WUEi) showed a more resource-acquisitive strategy (high SLA and leaf N, P and K). These leaf trait syndromes and resource use strategies were strongly conserved across sites with contrasting environmental conditions, indicating that foliar δ18O and δ13C can be included as an integral part of the LES for this set of rangeland species. Overall, the data suggest a tight coupling and coordination between water, carbon and nutrient use strategies across herbaceous plant species. A dual δ18O and δ13C isotope approach combined with LES trait measurements is a promising tool to more comprehensively assess the diversity of resource use strategies among coexisting plant species.