Plant functional traits are morphological, physiological or phenological properties which influence plant growth, survival, and reproduction. They hold the promise to describe plant species distribution patterns. But, few studies have linked several traits to numerous niche measurements (i.e., light, water, and nutrition ).
In a study published in Oecologia, researchers in the Xishuangbanna Tropical Botanical Garden (XTBG) assessed 18 leaf, stem, and root traits from 29 dominant liana species, and connected these to the mild, water, along with nutrient market dimensions of the species at the 20-ha Xishuangbanna Forest Dynamics Plot in Yunnan Province, Southwest China.
The researchers asked how liana traits are related, what plant approaches can be distinguished, and whether distinct traits form different species niches.
Lianas revealed two orthogonal trait spectra, a primary spectrum from tissue strength and water conservation to tissue softness and quick water acquisition, and also a secondary spectrum in nutrient and carbon acquisition.
Liana species using more acquisitive trait values occupied higher light and nutrient resource markets, but various traits were important for distinct market measurements. Intriguingly, each spectrum partly reflects the conservative–acquisitive paradigm, but in the same time both of these spectra are also independent from each other.
They discovered that different functional traits shaped distinct market dimensions and that multivariate trait strategies also played a part in shaping liana distribution. This indicates that liana species with more acquisitive trait values (softer cells, greater water usage ) can benefit from these conditions and dominate large soil resource niches.
Moreover, they discovered that species niche is set by the underlying elements (i.e., individual traits) rather than plant strategies (i.e., general trait syndromes).
“Traits, instead of local plant abundance, may therefore better explain species distributions and their presence along gradients of resource availability,” said Zhang Jiaolin, principal investigator of the study.