1021-4437/01/4801- $25.00 © 2001
Russian Journal of Plant Physiology, Vol. 48, No. 1, 2001, pp. 67–73. Translated from Fiziologiya Rastenii, Vol. 48, No. 1, 2001, pp. 81–88.
Original Russian Text Copyright © 2001 by P’yankov, Ivanov, Lambers.
Construction cost (CC) is the energy cost of the for-
mation of a plant weight unit, expressed as the amount
of glucose (g) required for the formation of 1 g of dry
weight. This characteristic is calculated on the basis of
the energy cost of the formation of individual plant sub-
stances [1-3]. Glucose is considered as the source sub-
stance for the construction of the carbon skeleton of
molecules and the source for the formation of ATP and
NADPH, which are consumed in biosynthetic reac-
tions. CC analysis in more than 80 plant species
revealed about twofold variation in their CC indices,
from 1 to 2 g of glucose per gram of leaf dry weight .
CC changed with the chemical composition of plant
material, and the individual organic compounds had
CC indices ranging between 1 and 3 g of glucose per
1 g of their weight [1, 2].
The chemical composition of plants is species-spe-
ciﬁc; hence, the CC of plant material is an important
genetic characteristic of individual species and reﬂects
the integral efﬁciency of light energy conversion. Envi-
ronmental factors can also affect the CC of plant mate-
rial to the extent of modifying its chemical composi-
tion. The ecological implications of this characteristic
are not yet fully understood because CC was measured
only in a few plant species.
To date, no regular differences in CC were found
between plants with different growth rates [2, 5] that
were grown at different CO
concentrations  or
under different environmental conditions . Grifﬁn
, who specially reviewed this problem, supposed that
CC might be an interesting tool in ecological research
and depends on the life form of plants, the efﬁciency of
water use, and their nitrogen and carbon content. He
noted that, as yet, most of the authors investigated only
a limited number of plant species, whereas it is much
more important to compare supra-species functional
groups of plants from different types of ecosystems.
The goal of this work is to verify the hypothesis that
the energy cost of leaf weight differs in boreal plants
that exhibit different types of ecological strategies.
These groups of species are characterized by a complex
of traits that provide for survival in contrasting habitats
due to different efﬁciencies of utilization of environ-
mental resources [8–10]. It seems reasonable to assume
that such groups of species should also differ in the efﬁ-
ciency of utilization of their internal resources,
expressed as energy expenses for the formation of a
unit of plant weight.
Plant Construction Cost in the Boreal Species Differing
in Their Ecological Strategies
V. I. P’yankov*, L. A. Ivanov*, and H. Lambers**
* Ural State University, pr. Lenina 51, Yekaterinburg, 620083 Russia;
fax: 7 (3432) 55-7401; e-mail: firstname.lastname@example.org
** Plant Sciences, The University of Western Australia, Nedlands, Australia
Received May 17, 2000
—Construction cost (CC) of leaves was studied in 73 boreal plant species differing in ecological strat-
egy. CC is the energy cost, expressed as glucose weight, of the plant weight unit formation. The perennial spe-
cies that exhibited the stress-tolerant (S) type of strategy had the highest, whereas the annual plants of the rud-
eral type (R) of strategy had the lowest CC values, and the individual plant species from these two groups sig-
niﬁcantly differed in their CC indices. Plant species of diverse strategies were regularly distributed in the
Grime’s triangle, according to their CC values. The analysis of leaf chemical components has shown that high
CC values in plants of the S-group correlated with a higher content of energy-expensive organic compounds,
pigments, lignin, waxes, phenolics, etc. In contrast, in the plants that exhibited the r-strategy, the majority of
photosynthetically assimilated carbon was utilized in the synthesis of functional substances, namely, proteins
and carbohydrates. Our data showed the differential organization of plant metabolism in the plants exhibiting
different types of ecological strategies. The CC values of leaf, together with other known characteristics, can
be used for the identiﬁcation of the types of ecological strategies and the assessment of the resistance of plant
species and varieties to environmental stress.
Key words: construction cost - ecological strategies - functional types of plants - boreal zone
: CC—construction cost; C—competitors; R—rud-
erals; S—stress-tolerant plants; SR, CS, CR, and CSR—the sec-
ondary types of strategies.