Submitted to: Botanical Bulletin of Academia Sinica
Publication Type: Peer Reviewed Journal
Publication Acceptance Date: 12/16/2004
Publication Date: 4/1/2005
Citation: Li, Y.L., Johnson, D.A., Su, Y.Z., Cui, J.Y., Zhang, T.H. 2005. Specific leaf area and leaf dry matter content of plants growing in sand dunes. Botanical Bulletin of Academia Sinica. Interpretive Summary: Specific leaf area (SLA, the ratio of leaf area to leaf dry weight) and leaf dry matter content (LDMC), the ratio of leaf dry weight to fresh weight) are important plant characteristics in plant ecology. These plant characteristics are associated with many critical aspects of plant growth and survival, and can be used as indicators of how plants use nutrients and water. Neither SLA nor LDMC has been evaluated for plants growing in sand dune environments. As a result, we determined variations in SLA and LDMC of 10 annual plant species and 10 perennial plant species growing in sand dunes in northern China. The plants we studied were growing in three types of sand dunes: mobile sand dunes, semi-fixed sand dunes and fixed sand dunes. We found that both SLA and LDMC varied considerably for the plants in the different types of sand dunes. Values of SLA were generally higher in annual than perennial plants. As SLA increased, LDMC decreased. We found that LDMC was less sensitive to variations in soil resources than SLA in the three types of sand dunes. As a result, SLA appears to be a better indicator of soil resource use in sand dune environments. However, LDMC is also an important characteristic because it is easier to measure than SLA, especially for dune plants that have small, narrow leaves.
Technical Abstract: We investigated variations in specific leaf area (SLA) and leaf dry matter content (LDMC) of 20 species (10 annuals and 10 perennials) that have different distributional patterns in Kerqin sandy land in northern China. The main purpose of our study was to determine if SLA and/or LDMC could be used as indicators of plant resource-use strategy in sand dune environments. The selected species were mainly distributed in three types of sand dunes: mobile sand dune, semi-fixed sand dune and fixed sand dune. These three types of sand dunes differed in their soil nutrient content and vegetation productivity. Both SLA and LDMC varied substantially among species in the different dunes. Maximum SLA (28.2 m2kg-1) was observed in the annual grass Setaria viridis in a fixed sand dune, and the lowest SLA (8.6 m2kg-1) was found in the perennial grass Pennisetum centrasiatum in a semi-fixed sand dune. LDMC varied from 0.10 for the annual forb Chenopodium glaucum in a fixed sand dune to 0.41gg-1 for the perennial grass Phragmitis australis in a fixed sand dune. For species common to two or three sites, their SLA and LDMC were significantly different between sites (P<0.05) except two species for SLA and six species for LDMC. SLA and LDMC were negatively correlated in the three types of sand dunes and each functional type (annual versus perennial species). However, SLA and LDMC were significantly correlated only in the fixed sand dune for perennial species and all species combined. The results of our study showed that SLA of annual plant species was generally higher than that of perennial species and that LDMC was significantly different between annual compared to perennial plants (P<0.001).