Intraspecific functional trait variability plays an important role in the response of plants to environmental changes. However, it is still unclear how the variability differs across three nested spatial scales (individual, plot, and site) and which determinants (climatic, soil, and ontogenetic variables) shape the trait variability. Along a latitudinal gradient in Korean pine broadleaved forest of northeast China, we quantified the extent of intraspecific variability of four functional traits in two dominant trees Pinus koraiensis and Fraxinus mandshurica at eight sites, including specific leaf area, leaf dry matter content (morphological traits) and leaf nitrogen content, leaf phosphorus content (physiological traits). Results showed a large trait variation within and between species (coefficient variation: 6.07–23.3%). The leaf physiological traits of F. mandshurica and morphological traits of P. koraiensis were more responsive at site scale, while the morphological traits of F. mandshurica and physiological traits of P. koraiensis were more responsive at individual scale. In addition, abiotic and biotic factors explaining functional trait variation differ markedly between the two tree species, with physiological trait of F. mandshurica being more associated with climate and soil, while traits variability in P. koraiensis was not affected by climate, soil, and ontogeny, except for leaf phosphorus content. Overall, we can predict that the physiological traits of broadleaved species tend to be more sensitive to environmental changes, while pines are more sensitive to competition. It is critical to determine which spatial scale and trait type should be taken into account in predictive models of vegetation dynamics.
Plant Ecology – Springer Journals
Published: Jun 1, 2018
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