Floral, climatic and soil pH controls on leaf ash content in China's terrestrial plants

Authors

  • Wenxuan Han,

    Corresponding author
    1. Key Laboratory of Plant–Soil Interactions of the Ministry of Education, Key Laboratory of Plant Nutrition of the Ministry of Agriculture, College of Resources and Environmental Sciences, China Agricultural University, Beijing, China
    2. Key Laboratory for Earth Surface Processes of the Ministry of Education, Department of Ecology, Peking University, Beijing, China
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  • Yahan Chen,

    1. Key Laboratory for Earth Surface Processes of the Ministry of Education, Department of Ecology, Peking University, Beijing, China
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  • Fang-Jie Zhao,

    1. Soil Science Department, Rothamsted Research, Harpenden, Hertfordshire AL5 2JQ, UK
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  • Luying Tang,

    1. Key Laboratory for Earth Surface Processes of the Ministry of Education, Department of Ecology, Peking University, Beijing, China
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  • Rongfeng Jiang,

    1. Key Laboratory of Plant–Soil Interactions of the Ministry of Education, Key Laboratory of Plant Nutrition of the Ministry of Agriculture, College of Resources and Environmental Sciences, China Agricultural University, Beijing, China
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  • Fusuo Zhang

    1. Key Laboratory of Plant–Soil Interactions of the Ministry of Education, Key Laboratory of Plant Nutrition of the Ministry of Agriculture, College of Resources and Environmental Sciences, China Agricultural University, Beijing, China
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Wenxuan Han, Key Laboratory of Plant–Soil Interactions of the Ministry of Education, Key Laboratory of Plant Nutrition of the Ministry of Agriculture, College of Resources and Environmental Sciences, China Agricultural University, Beijing, 100193, China. E-mail: hanwenxuan@cau.edu.cn

ABSTRACT

Aim  To investigate broad-scale patterns of plant leaf ash content and their possible causes in China.

Location  Mainland China and Hainan island, with the geographic ranges for the data used from 18.7° N to 49.2° N and 76.0° E to 128.3° E.

Methods  By analysing a data set of 2022 leaf samples, involving 704 species of terrestrial plants.

Results  Leaf ash content increases with increasing latitude at an average rate of 2.7 mg ash g−1 dry weight per degree latitude from south to north of China. Plant functional group shows a more powerful influence on the spatial variation in leaf ash than soil pH and climate. Fast-growing species or those with leaves with a short life span have higher leaf ash than slow-growing species or those with a long leaf life span. Plants from alkaline soils have higher leaf ash than those from acid soils (39.5 mg g−1 increase in leaf ash content per unit increase of pH). Increasing precipitation significantly reduces leaf ash (with a mean rate of 4.8 mg g−1 for every 100 mm rainfall), whereas the effect of temperature appears to be nonlinear.

Main conclusions  This study shows a significant latitudinal trend in leaf ash content in China. This geographic pattern is possibly shaped by the floral, edaphic and climatic factors that control the biogeochemical cycling of plant minerals. The results suggest that leaf ash content is a useful biogeographic indicator that can be used to explore the complex interactions between plants and the environment.

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