The relationships among root and leaf traits of 76 grassland species and relative abundance along fertility and disturbance gradients

J. M. Craine, J. Froehle, D. G. Tilman, D. A. Wedin, F. S. Chapin

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

289 Scopus citations

Abstract

For 76 annual, biennial, and perennial species common in the grasslands of central Minnesota, USA, we determined the patterns of correlations among seven organ-level traits (specific leaf area, leaf thickness, leaf tissue density, leaf angle, specific root length, average fine root diameter, and fine root tissue density) and their relationships with two traits relating to growth form (whether species existed for part of the growing season in basal, non-caulescent form and whether species were rhizomatous or not). The first correlation of traits showed that grasses had thin, dense leaves and thin roots while forbs had thick, low-density leaves and thick roots without any significant differences in growth form or life history. The second correlation of traits showed a gradient of species from those with high-density roots and high-density erect leaves to species with low-density roots and low-density leaves that were held parallel to the ground. High tissue density species were more likely to exist as a basal rosette for part of the season, were less likely to be rhizomatous, and less likely to be annuals. We examined the relationships between the two axes that represent the correlations of traits and previously collected data on the relative abundance of species across gradients of nitrogen addition and disturbance. Grasses were generally more abundant than forbs and the relative abundance of grasses and forbs did not change with increasing nitrogen addition or soil disturbance. High tissue density species became less common as fertility and disturbance increased.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)274-285
Number of pages12
JournalOikos
Volume93
Issue number2
DOIs
StatePublished - 2001

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