Biodiv Sci ›› 2022, Vol. 30 ›› Issue (5): 21414.  DOI: 10.17520/biods.2021414

• Original Papers: Plant Diversity • Previous Articles     Next Articles

Impact of canopy vertical height on leaf functional traits in a lower subtropical evergreen broad-leaved forest of Dinghushan

Tian Luo1, Fangyuan Yu1,*(), Juyu Lian2,3,*(), Junjie Wang4, Jian Shen5, Zhifeng Wu1, Wanhui Ye2,3   

  1. 1 School of Geography and Remote Sensing, Guangzhou University, Guangzhou 510006
    2 Key Laboratory of Vegetation Restoration and Management of Degraded Ecosystems, South China Botanical Garden, Chinese Academy of Sciences, Guangzhou 510650
    3 Southern Marine Science and Engineering Guangdong Laboratory (Guangzhou), Guangzhou 511458
    4 College of Life Sciences and Oceanography, Shenzhen University, Shenzhen, Guangdong 518060
    5 Institute of Agricultural Resources and Environment, Guangdong Academy of Agricultural Sciences, Guangzhou 510640
  • Received:2021-10-16 Accepted:2022-02-18 Online:2022-05-20 Published:2022-04-20
  • Contact: Fangyuan Yu,Juyu Lian


Aims: Plant functional traits, which reflect the adaptation mechanisms of plants to their environment, are important for ecosystem function. Leaves are the main photosynthetic organs of plants and the primary research object of functional traits. However, there are few studies about the variation of leaf functional traits with the increase of canopy vertical height. Taking a lower subtropical evergreen broad-leaved forest of Dinghushan as example, our study aims to detect the changes of leaf functional traits with the canopy vertical height, and explore the influence of canopy vertical height on leaf functional traits.

Methods: Six dominant species from a subtropical evergreen broad-leaved forest in the Dinghushan National Nature Reserve and a total of 10 leaf functional traits of these species at different canopy heights were compared and analyzed in this study. Leaf functional traits include specific leaf area (SLA), chlorophyll relative content (SPAD), leaf dry matter content (LDMC), leaf carbon content (LCC), leaf nitrogen content (LNC), leaf phosphorus content (LPC), leaf N : P (N : P), equivalent water thickness (EWT), nitrogen balance index (NBI), and flavonoids content (FLAV).

Results: The results revealed that: (1) With the increase of canopy vertical height, LDMC, FLAV, EWT, and LPC exhibited an increasing trend, while SLA and NBI exhibited a decreasing trend. There was a significant correlation between leaf traits and vertical height, as exemplified by FLAV and NBI, SLA and EWT with a negative correlation, while LNC and LPC were positively correlated. (2) Leaf traits showed significant discrepancy among different tree species, which might be affected by the plant’s own characteristics and the succession process of species in the community. (3) The intraspecific variation of leaf traits demonstrated different trends along vertical layers. With the increase of canopy vertical height, 67% of species displayed a significant increase in FLAV, while the NBI of 67% of species decreased significantly.

Conclusion: The variation of leaf traits with the increase of canopy vertical height in the subtropical evergreen broad-leaved forest reflects the adaptation of plants to the light environment and the utilization of water resources and energy.

Key words: Dinghushan tower crane plot, plant functional traits, dominant plants, vertical structure, species coexistence