Biodiversity Science ›› 2013, Vol. 21 ›› Issue (3): 278-287.doi: 10.3724/SP.J.1003.2013.10012

• Orginal Article • Previous Article     Next Article

Relationships between plant functional traits at the community level and environmental factors during succession in a tropical lowland rainforest on Hainan Island, South China

Wensheng Bu1, Runguo Zang1, *(), Yi Ding1, Junyan Zhang1, Yunze Ruan2   

  1. 1 Institute of Forest Ecology, Environment and Protection, Chinese Academy of Forestry; Key Laboratory of Forest Ecology and Environment of State Forestry Administration, Beijing 100091
    2 College of Agriculture, Hainan University, Haikou 570228
  • Received:2013-01-09 Accepted:2013-04-03 Online:2013-06-05
  • Zang Runguo

We explored how plant functional traits respond to environmental factors and examined the underlying mechanism driving the ecological strategies of plant species in a community. Experiments were conducted at four randomly selected tropical lowland rainforests at different successional stages:15-, 30- and 60-year-old secondary forests and one old-growth forest, each in the Bawangling Nature Reserve of Hainan Island. A total of 200 plots (20 m×20 m) were sampled. Individuals of tree and shrub species with diameter at breast height (DBH) ≥1 cm were identified and both their functional traits and the environmental factors in each plot were measured. ANOVA showed that canopy openness, level of soil nutrients, specific leaf area, and content of total organic carbon, nitrogen and phosphorus within the leaf decreased at the community level during the successional process. Meanwhile, leaf dry matter content, wood density and potential maximum height increased. However, soil water content and leaf potassium content, changed non-significantly. Multiple regression analysis demonstrated that environmental factors driving functional traits at the community level varied during the successional process. The key environmental factors were soil organic matter and pH value in the 15-year-old secondary forest; canopy openness and soil total phosphorus content in the 30-year-old secondary forest; available phosphorus and total potassium content of the soil in the 60-year-old secondary forest; and soil phosphorus content and organic matter content in the old-growth forest. Our results indicate that at different successional stages, the same functional traits respond to different environmental factors, enabling adaptation to specific environmental conditions.

Key words: tropical lowland rainforest, plant functional traits, secondary succession, shifting cultivation, environmental factors

Table 1

Basic information of tropical lowland rainforest plots at different successional stages in the Bawangling Nature Reserve (the number is the mean of value in the brackets)"

演替阶段 海拔 凹凸度 坡度 干扰类型
Stages Elevation Convex Slope Disturbance type
15年次生林 15-year-old secondary forest 419-520(467) -7到7(0) 5-27.3(14.1) 刀耕火种 Shifting cultivation
30年次生林 30-year-old secondary forest 514-576(545) -10到12(0.2) 9-38.6(23.5) 刀耕火种 Shifting cultivation
60年次生林 60-year-old secondary forest 474-515(498) -14到9(-0.1) 8-39.2(19.4) 刀耕火种 Shifting cultivation
老龄林 Old-growth forest (OG) 550-650(598) -18到14(-1) 7-39.5(27.0) 未干扰 No disturbance


Variations of environmental factors during different successional stages of tropical lowland rainforest in Bawangling Nature Reserve, Hainan Island. CO, Canopy openness; WC, Water content; BD, Bulk density; pH, pH value; SOM, Soil organic matter; TN, Total nitrogen; TP, Total phosphorus; TK, Total potassium; AN, Available nitrogen; AP, Available phosphorus and AK, Available potassium. Abbreviations of other parameters are same as Table 1. Boxes with different letters differ significantly at P <0.05."

Fig. 2

Variations of plant functional traits during different successional stages of tropical lowland rainforest in Bawangling Nature Reserve, Hainan Island. SLA, Specific leaf area; LDMC, Leaf dry matter content; WD, Wood density; Hmax, Potential maximum height; LNC, Leaf nitrogen content; LPC, Leaf phosphorus content; LKC, Leaf potassium content; LCC, Leaf total organic carbon. Abbreviations of other parameters are same as Table 1. Boxes with different letters differ significantly at P < 0.05."

Table 2

Multiple regression analysis between abundance-weighted mean value and environmental variables in different successional stages. The values of environmental variables are path coefficients (standardized regression coefficient) in regression model. R2 indicates coefficient of determination. AIC indicates Alkaike’s information criterion. Abbreviations of other variables are the same as Fig.1 and Fig. 2."

阶段 性状 环境变量 Environmental variables 回归方程参数 Parameters
15年次生林 15-year-old secondary forest (15yr)
SLA 0.47 0.12 154.6 0.0145
WD 0.18 0.17 37.5 0.0029
LNC 0.30 0.15 97.4 0.0064
LKC 0.38 -0.20 0.27 101.2 0.0005
LCC -0.41 0.21 107.2 0.0009
30年次生林 30-year-old secondary forest (30yr)
SLA -0.63 0.45 0.34 138.9 <0.0001
LDMC -0.30 0.15 87.1 0.005
WD -0.32 0.15 56.3 0.0057
Hmax 0.67 -0.30 0.35 117.6 <0.0001
LNC 0.35 0.28 0.16 104.2 0.0154
LPC 0.75 -0.19 0.22 0.41 106.3 <0.0001
LKC -0.90 0.33 0.39 142.0 <0.0001
LCC 0.74 -0.40 0.39 127.4 <0.0001
60年次生林 60-year-old secondary forest (60yr)
SLA 0.71 0.60 92.5 <0.0001
LDMC -0.53 -0.40 0.65 91.5 <0.0001
WD -0.28 -0.40 0.62 52.2 <0.0001
Hmax -0.48 -0.60 0.56 117.2 <0.0001
LNC 0.37 0.48 0.67 72.1 <0.0001
LPC 0.11 0.19 0.63 -26.3 <0.0001
LKC -0.29 0.70 0.37 125.9 <0.0001
LCC -0.13 0.37 0.49 54.7 <0.0001
老龄林 Old-growth forest (OG)
SLA -0.28 0.29 0.41 59.0 <0.0001
LDMC -0.23 0.32 0.21 80.6 0.035
WD -0.26 -0.44 0.32 52.0 0.0001
Hmax 0.59 0.14 90.8 0.0079
LNC -0.72 0.18 140.7 0.0022
LPC -0.24 0.21 19.8 0.0008
LKC 0.68 0.17 137.6 0.0029
LCC 0.47 0.62 0.31 100.5 0.0002
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