Morphological Response of Eight Quercus Species to Simulated Wind Load.
ABSTRACT: Leaf shape, including leaf size, leaf dissection index (LDI), and venation distribution, strongly impacts leaf physiology and the forces of momentum exerted on leaves or the canopy under windy conditions. Yet, little has been known about how leaf shape affects the morphological response of trees to wind load. We studied eight Quercus species, with different leaf shapes, to determine the morphological response to simulated wind load. Quercus trees with long elliptical leaves, were significantly affected by wind load (P< 0.05), as indicted by smaller specific leaf area (SLA), stem base diameter and stem height under windy conditions when compared to the control. The Quercus trees with leaves characterized by lanceolate or sinuous edges, showed positive morphological responses to wind load, such as bigger leaf thickness, larger stem diameter, allocation to root biomass, and smaller stem height (P< 0.05). These morphological responses to wind can reduce drag and increase the mechanical strength of the tree. Leaf dissection index (LDI), an important index of leaf shape, was correlated with morphological response to wind load (P< 0.05), including differences in SLA, in stem base diameter and in allocation to root biomass. These results suggest that trees with higher LDI, such as those with more and/or deeper lobes, are better adapted to wind load.
Project description:Differences among tropical tree species in survival and growth to light play a key role in plant competition and community composition. Two canopy species with contrasting functional traits dominating early and late successional stages, respectively, in a tropical montane rain forest of Hainan Island, China, were selected in a pot experiment under 4 levels of light intensity (full, 50%, 30%, and 10%) in order to explore the adaptive strategies of tropical trees to light conditions. Under each light intensity level, the pioneer species, Endospermum chinense (Euphorbiaceae), had higher relative growth rate (RGR), stem mass ratio (SMR), specific leaf area (SLA), and morphological plasticity while the shade tolerant climax species, Parakmeria lotungensis (Magnoliaceae), had higher root mass ratio (RMR) and leaf mass ratio (LMR). RGR of both species was positively related to SMR and SLA under each light level but was negatively correlated with RMR under lower light (30% and 10% full light). The climax species increased its survival by a conservative resource use strategy through increasing leaf defense and root biomass investment at the expense of growth rate in low light. In contrast, the pioneer increased its growth by an exploitative resource use strategy through increasing leaf photosynthetic capacity and stem biomass investment at the expense of survival under low light. There was a trade-off between growth and survival for species under different light conditions. Our study suggests that tree species in the tropical rainforest adopt different strategies in stands of different successional stages. Species in the earlier successional stages have functional traits more advantageous to grow faster in the high light conditions, whereas species in the late successional stages have traits more favorable to survive in the low light conditions.
Project description:Plants exhibit a diverse set of functional traits and ecological strategies which reflect an adaptation process to the biotic and abiotic components of the environment. The Plant Economic Spectrum organizes these traits along a continuum from conservative to acquisitive resource use strategies and shows how the abiotic environment governs a species' position along the continuum. However, this framework does not typically account for leaf traits associated with herbivore resistance, despite fundamental metabolic links (and therefore co-variance) between resource use traits and defensive traits. Here we analyzed a suite of leaf traits associated with either resource use (specific leaf area [SLA], nutrients and water content) or defenses (phenolic compounds) for saplings of 11 species of oaks (Quercus spp.), and further investigated whether climatic variables underlie patterns of trait interspecific variation. An ordination of leaf traits revealed the primary axis of trait variation to be leaf economic spectrum traits associated with resource use (SLA, nitrogen, water content) in conjunction with a defensive trait (condensed tannins). Secondary and tertiary axes of trait variation were mainly associated with other defensive traits (lignins, flavonoids, and hydrolysable tannins). Within the primary axis we found a trade-off between resource use traits and both water content and condensed tannins; species with high SLA and leaf N values invested less in condensed tannins and viceversa. Moreover, temperature and precipitation mediated the trait space occupied by species, such that species distributed in warmer and drier climates had less leaf N, lower SLA, and more defenses (condensed tannins, lignins and flavonoids), whereas opposite values were observed for species distributed in colder and wetter climates. These results emphasize the role of abiotic controls over all-inclusive axes of trait variation and contribute to a more complete understanding of interspecific variation in plant functional strategies.
Project description:Boreal forests are experiencing dramatic climate change, having warmed 1.0°-1.9°C over the last century. Yet forest regeneration practices are often still dictated by a fixed seed zone framework, in which seeds are both harvested from and planted into predefined areas. Our goal was to determine whether seedlings sourced from southern seed zones in Minnesota USA are already better adapted to northerly seed zones because of climate change. Bur oak (Quercus macrocarpa) and northern red oak (Quercus rubra) seedlings from two seed zones (i.e., tree ecotypes) were planted into 16 sites in two northern seed zones and measured for 3 yr. Our hypotheses were threefold: (1) tree species with more southern geographic distributions would thrive in northern forests where climate has already warmed substantially, (2) southern ecotypes of these species would have higher survival and growth than the northern ecotype in northern environments, and (3) natural selection would favor seedlings that expressed phenotypic and phenological traits characteristic of trees sourced from the more southern seed zone. For both species, survival was high (>93%), and southern ecotypes expressed traits consistent with our climate adaptation hypotheses. Ecotypic differences were especially evident for red oak; the southern ecotype had had higher survival, lower specific leaf area (SLA), faster height and diameter growth, and extended leaf phenology relative to the northern ecotype. Bur oak results were weaker, but the southern ecotype also had earlier budburst and lower SLA than the northern ecotype. Models based on the fixed seed zones failed to explain seedling performance as well as those with continuous predictors (e.g., climate and geographical position), suggesting that plant adaptations within current seed zone delineations do align with changing climate conditions. Adding support for this conclusion, natural selection favored traits expressed by the more southern tree ecotypes. Collectively, these results suggest that state seed sourcing guidelines should be reexamined to permit plantings across seed zones, a form of assisted migration. More extensive experiments (i.e., provenance trails) are necessary to make species-specific seed transfer guidelines that account for climate trends while also considering the precise geographic origin of seed sources.
Project description:Salinization is an important and increasingly prevalent issue which has broad and profound effects on plant survival and distribution pattern. To understand the patterns and potential drivers of leaf traits in saline environments, we determined the soil properties, leaf morphological traits (specific leaf area, SLA, and leaf dry matter content, LDMC), leaf chemical traits (leaf carbon, C, nitrogen, N, and phosphorus, P, stoichiometry) based on 142 observations collected from 23 sites in an arid saline environment, which is a vulnerable ecosystem in northwest China. We also explored the relationships among leaf traits, the responses of leaf traits, and plant functional groups (herb, woody, and succulent woody) to various saline environments. The arid desert halophytes were characterized by lower leaf C and SLA levels, higher N, but stable P and N:P. The leaf morphological traits were correlated significantly with the C, N, and P contents across all observations, but they differed within each functional group. Succulent woody plants had the lowest leaf C and highest leaf N levels among the three functional groups. The growth of halophytes might be more limited by N rather than P in the study area. GLM analysis demonstrated that the soil available nutrients and plant functional groups, but not salinity, were potential drivers of leaf C:N:P stoichiometry in halophytes, whereas species differences accounted for the largest contributions to leaf morphological variations. Our study provides baseline information to facilitate the management and restoration of arid saline desert ecosystem.
Project description:Future climates are likely to include extreme events, which in turn have great impacts on ecological systems. In this study, we investigated possible effects that could mitigate stem breakage caused by a rare and extreme ice storm in a Chinese subtropical forest across a gradient of forest diversity. We used Bayesian modeling to correct stem breakage for tree size and variance components analysis to quantify the influence of taxon, leaf and wood functional traits, and stand level properties on the probability of stem breakage. We show that the taxon explained four times more variance in individual stem breakage than did stand level properties; trees with higher specific leaf area (SLA) were less susceptible to breakage. However, a large part of the variation at the taxon scale remained unexplained, implying that unmeasured or undefined traits could be used to predict damage caused by ice storms. When aggregated at the plot level, functional diversity and wood density increased after the ice storm. We suggest that for the adaption of forest management to climate change, much can still be learned from looking at functional traits at the taxon level.
Project description:The climbing habit is an evolutionary key innovation in plants because it is associated with enhanced clade diversification. We tested whether patterns of species divergence and variation of three ecophysiological traits that are fundamental for plant adaptation to light environments (maximum photosynthetic rate [A(max)], dark respiration rate [R(d)], and specific leaf area [SLA]) are consistent with this key innovation. Using data reported from four tropical forests and three temperate forests, we compared phylogenetic distance among species as well as the evolutionary rate, phylogenetic distance and phylogenetic signal of those traits in lianas and trees. Estimates of evolutionary rates showed that R(d) evolved faster in lianas, while SLA evolved faster in trees. The mean phylogenetic distance was 1.2 times greater among liana species than among tree species. Likewise, estimates of phylogenetic distance indicated that lianas were less related than by chance alone (phylogenetic evenness across 63 species), and trees were more related than expected by chance (phylogenetic clustering across 71 species). Lianas showed evenness for R(d), while trees showed phylogenetic clustering for this trait. In contrast, for SLA, lianas exhibited phylogenetic clustering and trees showed phylogenetic evenness. Lianas and trees showed patterns of ecophysiological trait variation among species that were independent of phylogenetic relatedness. We found support for the expected pattern of greater species divergence in lianas, but did not find consistent patterns regarding ecophysiological trait evolution and divergence. R(d) followed the species-level pattern, i.e., greater divergence/evolution in lianas compared to trees, while the opposite occurred for SLA and no pattern was detected for A(max). R(d) may have driven lianas' divergence across forest environments, and might contribute to diversification in climber clades.
Project description:Most terrestrial ecosystems are nitrogen (N)-limited. The elucidation of the multivariate relationships among environmental drivers, leaf morphological traits, and foliar N of dominant species which are critical to the functioning of forests remains a critical challenge for ecologists. We sampled leaves of Quercus wutaishanica across a broad natural gradient in the Loess Plateau, China, and employed structural equation modelling to evaluate the causal pathways and the relative importance of drivers of the foliar N per unit area (Narea) and per unit mass (Nmass). We found that (1) Nmass and Narea were primarily affected by leaf morphological traits instead of environmental variables and that leaf morphological traits accounted for most of their variations; (2) the total soil potassium and phosphorus and mean annual precipitation had different effects on Nmass and Narea via different pathways and path coefficients, whereas the mean annual temperature and total soil N had non-significant effects on Nmass and Narea. Our results demonstrated that variations in Nmass and Narea within Quercus wutaishanica were strongly linked to their leaf morphological traits and that the leaf N was also influenced by mean annual precipitation and soil phosphorus and potassium instead of soil N in the Loess Plateau, China.
Project description:Widely distributed species are normally subjected to spatial heterogeneity in environmental conditions. In sessile organisms like plants, adaptive evolution and phenotypic plasticity of key functional traits are the main mechanisms through which species can respond to environmental heterogeneity and climate change. While extended research has been carried out in temperate species in this regard, there is still limited knowledge as to how species from seasonally-dry tropical climates respond to spatial and temporal variation in environmental conditions. In fact, studies of intraspecific genetically-based differences in functional traits are still largely unknown and studies in these ecosystems have largely focused on in situ comparisons where environmental and genetic effects cannot be differentiated. In this study, we tested for ecotypic differentiation and phenotypic plasticity in leaf economics spectrum (LES) traits, water use efficiency and growth rates under natural and manipulated precipitation regimes in a common garden experiment where seedlings of eight populations of the neotropical live oak Quercus oleoides were established. We also examined the extent to which intraspecific trait variation was associated with plant performance under different water availability. Similar to interspecific patterns among seasonally-dry tropical tree species, live oak populations with long and severe dry seasons had higher leaf nitrogen content and growth rates than mesic populations, which is consistent with a "fast" resource-acquisition strategy aimed to maximize carbon uptake during the wet season. Specific leaf area (SLA) was the best predictor of plant performance, but contrary to expectations, it was negatively associated with relative and absolute growth rates. This observation was partially explained by the negative association between SLA and area-based photosynthetic rates, which is contrary to LES expectations but similar to other recent intraspecific studies on evergreen oaks. Overall, our study shows strong intraspecific differences in functional traits in a tropical oak, Quercus oleoides, and suggests that precipitation regime has played an important role in driving adaptive divergence in this widespread species.
Project description:Growth rates are of fundamental importance for plants, as individual size affects myriad ecological processes. We determined the factors that generate variation in RGR among 14 species of trees and shrubs that are abundant in subtropical Chinese forests. We grew seedlings for two years at four light levels in a shade-house experiment. We monitored the growth of every juvenile plant every two weeks. After one and two years, we destructively harvested individuals and measured their functional traits and gas-exchange rates. After calculating individual biomass trajectories, we estimated relative growth rates using nonlinear growth functions. We decomposed the variance in log(RGR) to evaluate the relationships of RGR with its components: specific leaf area (SLA), net assimilation rate (NAR) and leaf mass ratio (LMR). We found that variation in NAR was the primary determinant of variation in RGR at all light levels, whereas SLA and LMR made smaller contributions. Furthermore, NAR was strongly and positively associated with area-based photosynthetic rate and leaf nitrogen content. Photosynthetic rate and leaf nitrogen concentration can, therefore, be good predictors of growth in woody species.
Project description:BACKGROUND AND AIMS: A trade-off between shade tolerance and growth in high light is thought to underlie the temporal dynamics of humid forests. On the other hand, it has been suggested that tree species sorting on temperature gradients involves a trade-off between growth rate and cold resistance. Little is known about how these two major trade-offs interact. METHODS: Seedlings of Australian tropical and cool-temperate rainforest trees were grown in glasshouse environments to compare growth versus shade-tolerance trade-offs in these two assemblages. Biomass distribution, photosynthetic capacity and vessel diameters were measured in order to examine the functional correlates of species differences in light requirements and growth rate. Species light requirements were assessed by field estimation of the light compensation point for stem growth. RESULTS: Light-demanding and shade-tolerant tropical species differed markedly in relative growth rates (RGR), but this trend was less evident among temperate species. This pattern was paralleled by biomass distribution data: specific leaf area (SLA) and leaf area ratio (LAR) of tropical species were significantly positively correlated with compensation points, but not those of cool-temperate species. The relatively slow growth and small SLA and LAR of Tasmanian light-demanders were associated with narrow vessels and low potential sapwood conductivity. CONCLUSIONS: The conservative xylem traits, small LAR and modest RGR of Tasmanian light-demanders are consistent with selection for resistance to freeze-thaw embolism, at the expense of growth rate. Whereas competition for light favours rapid growth in light-demanding trees native to environments with warm, frost-free growing seasons, frost resistance may be an equally important determinant of the fitness of light-demanders in cool-temperate rainforest, as seedlings establishing in large openings are exposed to sub-zero temperatures that can occur throughout most of the year.