Plant functional types rather than climate or soil determine leaf traits in the forest biomes of eastern China

2017-11-21T03:28:22Z (GMT) by Xiaoyun Zhan Guirui Yu Tibin Zhang
<p>Nitrogen (N) has great ecological importance, but the biogeographic pattern across forest biomes in China has only recently been explored. Here we conducted a systematic census of leaf C and N following the same protocol to explore the variations of leaf traits, and their possible responses to plant functional types (PFTs) and environmental factors. Results showed that leaf traits varied substantially across biomes, and the relationships of PFTs to climatic factors were stronger than those of PFTs versus soil nutrient proxies, indicating that plant species composition might be a better predictor of plant species distribution with climate than leaf traits. Soil nutrient proxies explained more variation of leaf traits than climate, which demonstrates that leaf traits reflect important aspects of plant responses to soil nutrients. Importantly, partial general linear models analyses found that PFTs showed the greatest direct influence for leaf traits, and climate and soil affected leaf traits mainly through the change in plant species composition rather than having direct impacts. Hence, we concluded that leaf traits were largely controlled by PFTs rather than climate or soil at the biome scale. The results favored the species composition hypothesis, indicating that leaf nutrient concentration is mainly determined by PFTs.</p>