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Plant functional traits


Li, Jinlong et al. (2021), Plant functional traits, Dryad, Dataset,


The whole-plant economics spectrum (PES) refers to the trade-offs among the many plant functional traits that are commonly used as indicators of major adaptive strategies, thereby providing insights into plant distributions, ecosystem processes, and evolution. However, there are few studies of what may be called the whole-plant economic spectrum (PES) that integrates bark, wood, and leaf functional traits for different leaf-types and growth habits (evergreen versus deciduous species).

To address this gap in our knowledge, 6 bark traits, 7 wood traits (including mechanical support and nutrient transport characteristics), and 12 leaf traits (including chemical, structural, and physiological characteristics) of 59 representative subtropical woody species were examined using principal component analysis (PCA) to determine PES strategies.

The economics spectra of bark (BES), wood (WES), and leaves (LES), and the entire PES indicated that major traits represent resource acquisition strategies and conservation strategies clustering on the opposite ends of the PCA axis. A significant correlation was observed among the 25 functional traits. The data indicated that N and P nutrient levels were at the hub of BES, WES, LES, and PES interrelationships. Evergreen and deciduous species had different WES and LES, and thus PES resource acquisition strategies. With the exception of the BES, evergreen species clustered on the conservative side, whereas deciduous species clustered on the acquisitive side.

The PES presented here informs our understanding of whole-plant responses to environmental differences, particularly regarding the role of N and P traits at the whole-plant level. It also reveals and further supports the notion that evergreen and deciduous species respectively manifest conservative and acquisitive strategies, further informing our understanding of species biodiversity maintenance.