Journal Article

Combined use of leaf size and economics traits allows direct comparison of hydrophyte and terrestrial herbaceous adaptive strategies

Simon Pierce, Guido Brusa, Matteo Sartori and Bruno E. L. Cerabolini

in Annals of Botany

Published on behalf of The Annals of Botany Company

Volume 109, issue 5, pages 1047-1053
Published in print April 2012 | ISSN: 0305-7364
Published online February 2012 | e-ISSN: 1095-8290 | DOI: http://dx.doi.org/10.1093/aob/mcs021
Combined use of leaf size and economics traits allows direct comparison of hydrophyte and terrestrial herbaceous adaptive strategies

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  • Ecology and Conservation
  • Evolutionary Biology
  • Plant Sciences and Forestry

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Background and Aims

Hydrophytes generally exhibit highly acquisitive leaf economics. However, a range of growth forms is evident, from small, free-floating and rapidly growing Lemniden to large, broad-leaved Nymphaeiden, denoting variability in adaptive strategies. Traits used to classify adaptive strategies in terrestrial species, such as canopy height, are not applicable to hydrophytes. We hypothesize that hydrophyte leaf size traits and economics exhibit sufficient overlap with terrestrial species to allow a common classification of plant functional types, sensu Grime's CSR theory.

Methods

Leaf morpho-functional traits were measured for 61 species from 47 water bodies in lowland continental, sub-alpine and alpine bioclimatic zones in southern Europe and compared against the full leaf economics spectrum and leaf size range of terrestrial herbs, and between hydrophyte growth forms.

Key Results

Hydrophytes differed in the ranges and mean values of traits compared with herbs, but principal components analysis (PCA) demonstrated that both groups shared axes of trait variability: PCA1 encompassed size variation (area and mass), and PCA2 ranged from relatively dense, carbon-rich leaves to nitrogen-rich leaves of high specific leaf area (SLA). Most growth forms exhibited trait syndromes directly equivalent to herbs classified as R adapted, although Nymphaeiden ranged between C and SR adaptation.

Conclusions

Our findings support the hypothesis that hydrophyte adaptive strategy variation reflects fundamental trade-offs in economics and size that govern all plants, and that hydrophyte adaptive strategies can be directly compared with terrestrial species by combining leaf economics and size traits.

Keywords: Aquatic plant; plant functional type; plant economics spectrum; universal adaptive strategy theory; worldwide leaf economics spectrum

Journal Article.  5126 words.  Illustrated.

Subjects: Ecology and Conservation ; Evolutionary Biology ; Plant Sciences and Forestry

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