Abstract: A growth analysis was conducted with 24 central European grass species in full daylight to test whether traits underlying interspecific variation in relative growth rate (RGR) are the same in full daylight as they are at lower light, and whether this depends on the ecological characteristics of the studied species, i.e., their requirements with respect to nutrient and light availability.
In contrast to studies with herbaceous species at lower light, net assimilation rate (NAR) contributed more than leaf area ratio (LAR) or specific leaf area (SLA) to interspecific variation in RGR. This was associated with a larger interspecific variation in NAR than found in experiments with lower light. Without the two most shade-tolerant species, however, the contribution of LAR and its components to interspecific variation in RGR was similar or even higher than that of NAR.
Leaf dry matter content correlated negatively with RGR and was the only component of LAR contributing in a similar manner to variation in LAR and RGR. There was a positive correlation between NAR and biomass allocation to roots, which may be a result of nutrient-limited growth. RGR correlated negatively with biomass allocation to leaves. Leaf thickness did not correlate with RGR, as the positive effect of thin leaves was counterbalanced by their lower NAR.
Low inherent RGR was associated with species from nutrient-poor or shady habitats. Different components constrained growth for these two groups of species, those from nutrient-poor habitats having high leaf dry matter content, while those from shady habitats had thin leaves with low NAR.