Nature volume 428, issue 6985, P821-827 2004 DOI: 10.1038/nature02403
Ian J. Wright, Peter B. Reich, Mark Westoby, David D. Ackerly, Zdravko Baruch, Frans Bongers, Jeannine Cavender-Bares, Terry Chapin, Johannes H. C. Cornelissen, Matthias Diemer, Jaume Flexas, Eric Garnier, Philip K. Groom, Javier Gulias, Kouki Hikosaka, Byron B. Lamont, Tali Lee, William Lee, Christopher Lusk, Jeremy J. Midgley, Marie-Laure Navas, Ülo Niinemets, Jacek Oleksyn, Noriyuki Osada, Hendrik Poorter, Pieter Poot, Lynda Prior, Vladimir I. Pyankov, Catherine Roumet, Sean C. Thomas, Mark G. Tjoelker, Erik J. Veneklaas, Rafael Villar
Abstract:

Bringing together leaf trait data spanning 2,548 species and 175 sites we describe, for the first time at global scale, a universal spectrum of leaf economics consisting of key chemical, structural and physiological properties. The spectrum runs from quick to slow return on investments of nutrients and dry mass in leaves, and operates largely independently of growth form, plant functional type or biome. Categories along the spectrum would, in general, describe leaf economic variation at the global scale better than plant functional types, because functional types overlap substantially in their leaf traits. Overall, modulation of leaf traits and trait relationships by climate is surprisingly modest, although some striking and significant patterns can be seen. Reliable quantification of the leaf economics spectrum and its interaction with climate will prove valuable for modelling nutrient fluxes and vegetation boundaries under changing land-use and climate.Green leaves are fundamental for the functioning of terrestrial ecosystems. Their pigments are the predominant signal seen from space. Nitrogen uptake and carbon assimilation by plants and the decomposability of leaves drive biogeochemical cycles. Animals, fungi and other heterotrophs in ecosystems are fuelled by photosynthate, and their habitats are structured by the stems on which leaves are deployed. Plants invest photosynthate and mineral nutrients in the construction of leaves, which in turn return a revenue stream of photosynthate over their lifetimes. The photosynthate is used to acquire mineral nutrients, to support metabolism and to re-invest in leaves, their supporting stems and other plant parts.There are more than 250,000 vascular plant species, all engaging in the same processes of investment and reinvestment of carbon and mineral nutrients, and all making enough surplus to ensure continuity to future generations. These processes of investment and re-investment are inherently economic in nature [1][2][3] . Understanding how these processes vary between species, plant functional types and the vegetation of different biomes is a major goal for plant ecology and crucial for modelling how nutrient fluxes and vegetation boundaries will shift with land-use and climate change. Data set and parametersWe formed a global plant trait network (Glopnet) to quantify leaf economics across the world's plant species. The Glopnet data set spans 2,548 species from 219 families at 175 sites (approximately 1% of the extant vascular plant species). The coverage of traits, species and sites is at least tenfold greater than previous data compilations [4][5][6][7][8][9][10][11] , extends to all vegetated continents, and represents a wide range of vegetation types, from arctic tundra to tropical rainforest, from hot to cold deserts, from boreal forest to grasslands. Site elevation ranges from below sea level (Death Valley, USA) to 4,800 m. Mean annual temperature (MAT) ranges from 216.5 8C to 27.5 8C; mean annual rainfall (MAR) ranges from 133 to 5,300 mm per year. This cove...

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