Plant and Soil

, Volume 340, Issue 1–2, pp 337–345 | Cite as

Important foliar traits depend on species-grouping: analysis of a remnant temperate forest at the Keerqin Sandy Lands, China

Regular Article


Foliar traits are often interpreted to reflect strategies for coping with water and nutrient supply limitations. In this study, we measured several important leaf traits for 147 species sampled from a remnant, temperate deciduous broad-leaved forest in Keerqin Sandy Lands, Northeast China to test whether these traits are ‘invariant’ or dependent on water supply limitations. Our data show that average specific leaf area (SLA), nitrogen (N) and phosphorus (P) concentrations, leaf C/N, C/P and N/P were 273 cm2 g−1, 18.1 mg g−1, 1.60 mg g−1, 28.2, 343 and 12.4, respectively. However, most of these traits were significantly different (P < 0.05) for different species groupings based on growth forms, phylogenetic history, photosynthetic pathways, or habitats. SLA was positively correlated with leaf P concentration across the broad spectrum of 118 species and most species functional groupings. However, SLA was not correlated with N concentration across all species or within each species functional group. SLA and N and P concentrations in dry habitats were lower than those in wet habitats, whereas leaf C/N, C/P, and N/P had the opposite trend both across all species and within major species functional groupings (herb, monocots and C3 species). Our data indicate that SLA vs. leaf N and SLA vs. P relationships may be regulated differentially for different species functional groupings and that water limitation may have a greater influence than nutrient limitation for plant growth.


Diminishing return Leaf N/P ratio Sandy forest ecosystem Semi-arid region Species functional group Specific leaf area (SLA) 



This study was supported by grants from the National Key Technologies R&D Program of China (No. 2006BAD26B0201-1), the National Natural Science Foundation of China (Nos. 30872011 & 30960311) and National Key Basic Research Program of China (No. 2007CB106803). We thank Yi Gan, Hai-Jun Hu and Shi-Gen Wu for their field work; Lu Gan, Yi Liu and Qiu-Xiang Tian for nutrient analyses. We gratefully acknowledge two reviewers for their insightful comments on this manuscript. Dr. Hans Lambers provided suggestions on corrections of improper citing.

Supplementary material

11104_2010_606_MOESM1_ESM.doc (241 kb)
Appendix 1 Selected plant species and their characteristics in Daqinggou National Nature Reserve of Northeast China. (DOC 241 kb)


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Copyright information

© Springer Science+Business Media B.V. 2010

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Daqinggou Ecological Station, Institute of Applied EcologyChinese Academy of SciencesShenyangPeople’s Republic of China
  2. 2.College of Life SciencesNanchang UniversityNanchangPeople’s Republic of China
  3. 3.Department of Plant BiologyCornell UniversityIthacaUSA

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