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Department of Evolutionary Biology and Environmental Studies

Climate, Environment, and Phylogeny as drivers of Leaf Traits across Chinese Grassland Biomes


Assessing the influence of climate, soil fertility, and species identity on leaf trait relationships is crucial for understanding the adaptations of plants to their environment and for interpreting leaf trait relationships across spatial scales.


We survey grassland sites along transects across China to examine trade-offs between leaf persistence (leaf mass per area), leaf productivity (mass-based photosynthetic rate, N and P content, and photosynthetic N-use efficiency, PNUE) and other plant traits. Using general linear mixed models we asked to which extent these trade-offs are influenced by variation among sites within species (decomposed into variation due to climatic and soil variables) and variation among species within sites (decomposed into variation among taxonomic, functional, or phylogenetic groups). Results provide evidence for the fundamental nature of productivity–persistence tradeoffs in plants. The total covariance between leaf traits is explained by a combination of factors.


Prof. Dr. Bernhard Schmid (Collaborator)

Co-operation partners

Prof. Jingyun Fang (Project Leader), Peking University
Prof. Jin-Sheng He (Project Leader), Peking University


  • He J-S., Wang X., Schmid B., Flynn DFB., Li X., Reich PB., Fang J. (2010). Taxonomic identity, phylogeny, climate and soil fertility as drivers of leaf traits across Chinese grassland biomes. Journal of Plant Research, 123(4):551-561. DOI: 10.1007/s10265-009-0294-9
  • Ma W., He J-S., Yang Y., Wang X., Liang C., Anwar M., Zeng H., Fang J., Schmid B. (2010). Environmental factors co-vary with plant diversity–productivity relationships among Chinese grassland sites. Global Ecology and Biogeography, 19(2):233-243. DOI: 10.1111/j.1466-8238.2009.00508.x
  • He JS., Wang X., Flynn DFB., Wang L., Schmid B., Fang J. (2009). Taxonomic, phylogenetic, and environmental trade-offs between leaf productivity and persistence. Ecology, 90(10):2779-2791. DOI: 10.1890/08-1126.1

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