Skip to main content
Dryad logo

Divergent response and adaptation of specific leaf area to environmental change at different spatio-temporal scales jointly improve plant survival

Citation

Zhaogang, Liu; Nianpeng, He (2022), Divergent response and adaptation of specific leaf area to environmental change at different spatio-temporal scales jointly improve plant survival, Dryad, Dataset, https://doi.org/10.5061/dryad.xksn02vkd

Abstract

Specific leaf area (SLA) is one of the most important plant functional traits. It integrates multiple functions and reflects strategies of plants to obtain resources. How plants employ different strategies (e.g., through SLA) to respond to dynamic environmental conditions remains poorly understood.This study aimed to explore the spatial variation in SLA and divergent adaptation of plants by changing SLA through the lens of biogeographic patterns, evolutionary history, and short-term responses. SLA data for 5424 plant species from 76 natural communities in China were systematically measured and integrated with meta-analysis of field experiments (i.e., global warming, drought, and nitrogen addition). The mean value of SLA across all species was 21.8 m2 kg–1, ranging from 0.9 to 110.2 m2 kg–1. SLA differed among different ecosystems, temperature zones, vegetation types, and functional groups. Phylogeny had a weak effect on SLA, but plant species evolved toward higher SLA. Furthermore, plants responded nonlinearly to environmental change by changing SLA. Unexpectedly, radiation was one of the main factors determining the spatial variation in SLA on a large scale. Conversely, short-term manipulative experiments showed that SLA increased with increased resource availability and tended to stabilize with treatment duration. However, different species exhibited varying response patterns. Overall, long-term adaptation of plants to environmental gradients and its short-term response to resource pulses through variation in SLA jointly improve plant adaptability to a changing environment. Overall SLA-environment relationships should be emphasized as a multidimensional strategy for elucidating environmental change in future research.

Methods

During the peak of the growing season (from July to August) in 2013, 2016, 2017, 2018 and 2019, we investigated SLA in 76 typical terrestrial ecosystems in China.

Funding

Chinese Academy of Sciences Key Project, Award: YSBR-037

National Natural Science Foundation of China, Award: 31988102, 31961143022

National Science and Technology Basic Resources Survey Program of China, Award: 2019FY101300