Linking leaf and root trait syndromes among 39 grassland and savannah species

M. G. Tjoelker, J. M. Craine, D. Wedin, Peter B Reich, David Tilman

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

402 Scopus citations


• Here, we tested hypothesized relationships among leaf and fine root traits of grass, forb, legume, and woody plant species of a savannah community. • CO2 exchange rates, structural traits, chemistry, and longevity were measured in tissues of 39 species grown in long-term monocultures. • Across species, respiration rates of leaves and fine roots exhibited a common regression relationship with tissue nitrogen (N) concentration, although legumes had lower rates at comparable N concentrations. Respiration rates and N concentration declined with increasing longevity of leaves and roots. Species rankings of leaf and fine-root N and longevity were correlated, but not specific leaf area and specific root length. The C 3 and C4 grasses had lower N concentrations than forbs and legumes, but higher photosynthesis rates across a similar range of leaf N. • Despite contrasting photosynthetic pathways and N2-fixing ability among these species, concordance in above- and below-ground traits was evident in comparable rankings in leaf and root longevity, N and respiration rates, which is evidence of a common leaf and root trait syndrome linking traits to effects on plant and ecosystem processes.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)493-508
Number of pages16
JournalNew Phytologist
Issue number2
StatePublished - Aug 2005


  • Functional groups
  • Leaf lifespan
  • Nitrogen-use efficiency
  • Photosynthesis
  • Respiration
  • Root turnover
  • Specific leaf area
  • Specific root length


Dive into the research topics of 'Linking leaf and root trait syndromes among 39 grassland and savannah species'. Together they form a unique fingerprint.

Cite this