Get access

Biogeography and variability of eleven mineral elements in plant leaves across gradients of climate, soil and plant functional type in China

Authors

  • W. X. Han,

    1. Key Laboratory for Earth Surface Processes, Ministry of Education, Department of Ecology, Peking University, Beijing 100871, China
    2. Key Laboratory of Plant-Soil Interactions, Ministry of Education, Key Laboratory of Plant Nutrition, Ministry of Agriculture, College of Resources and Environmental Sciences, China Agricultural University, Beijing 100193, China
    Search for more papers by this author
  • J. Y. Fang,

    Corresponding author
    1. Key Laboratory for Earth Surface Processes, Ministry of Education, Department of Ecology, Peking University, Beijing 100871, China
      E-mail: jyfang@urban.pku.edu.cn
    Search for more papers by this author
  • P. B. Reich,

    1. Department of Forest Resources and Institute on the Environment, University of Minnesota, Minnesota 55108, USA
    2. Hawkesbury Institute for the Environment, University of Western Sydney, Richmond, NSW 2753, Australia
    Search for more papers by this author
  • F. Ian Woodward,

    1. Department Animal & Plant Sciences, University of Sheffield, Sheffield, S10 2TN, UK
    Search for more papers by this author
  • Z. H. Wang

    1. Key Laboratory for Earth Surface Processes, Ministry of Education, Department of Ecology, Peking University, Beijing 100871, China
    Search for more papers by this author

E-mail: jyfang@urban.pku.edu.cn

Abstract

Ecology Letters (2011) 14: 788–796

Abstract

Understanding variation of plant nutrients is largely limited to nitrogen and to a lesser extent phosphorus. Here we analyse patterns of variation in 11 elements (nitrogen/phosphorus/potassium/calcium/magnesium/sulphur/silicon/iron/sodium/manganese/aluminium) in leaves of 1900 plant species across China. The concentrations of these elements show significant latitudinal and longitudinal trends, driven by significant influences of climate, soil and plant functional type. Precipitation explains more variation than temperature for all elements except phosphorus and aluminium, and the 11 elements differentiate in relation to climate, soil and functional type. Variability (assessed as the coefficient of variation) and environmental sensitivity (slope of responses to environmental gradients) are lowest for elements that are required in the highest concentrations, most abundant and most often limiting in nature (the Stability of Limiting Elements Hypothesis). Our findings can help initiate a more holistic approach to ecological plant nutrition and lay the groundwork for the eventual development of multiple element biogeochemical models.

Get access to the full text of this article

Ancillary