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Size dependent associations between tree diameter growth rates and functional traits in an Asian tropical seasonal rainforest

First Author: Yan YM
Abstract: Many studies focus on the relationships between plant functional traits and tree growth performances. However, little is known about the ontogenetic shifts of the relationships between functional traits and tree growth. This study examined associations between stem and leaf functional traits and growth rates and their ontogenetic shifts across 20 tropical tree species in a tropical seasonal rainforest in Xishuangbanna, south-west China. For each species, physiological active branches of individual trees belonged to three size classes (i.e. small, diameter at breast height (DBH) 5–10 cm; middle, DBH 10–20 cm; big, DBH >20 cm) were sampled respectively. We measured 18 morphological and structural traits, which characterised plant hydraulic properties or leaf economic spectrum. Associations between diameter growth rates and functional traits were analysed across three size classes. Our results revealed that diameter growth rates of big-sized trees were mainly related to traits related to plant hydraulic efficiency (i.e. theoretical hydraulic conductivity (Ktheo) and leaf vein density (Dvein)), which suggests that the growth of large trees is limited mainly by their xylem water transport capacity. For middle-sized trees, growth rates were significantly related to traits representing leaf economic spectrum (i.e. specific leaf area (SLA), individual leaf mass (ILM), palisade thickness (PT) and spongy thickness (SP)). Diameter growth rates of small-sized trees were not correlated with hydraulic or leaf economic traits. Thus, the associations between tree growth rates and functional traits are size dependent. Our results suggest ontogenetic shift of functional traits which could potential contribute to different growth response to climate change.
Contact the author: Fan ZX
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PubYear: Oct 2020
Publication Name: Functional Plant Biology
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