Leaf trait relationships in Australian plant species
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Leaf trait data were compiled for 258 Australian plant species from several habitat types dominated by woody perennials. Specific leaf area (SLA), photosynthetic capacity, dark respiration rate and leaf nitrogen (N) and phosphorus (P) concentrations were positively correlated with one another and negatively correlated with average leaf lifespan. These trait relationships were consistent with previous results from global datasets. Together, these traits form a spectrum of variation running from species with cheap but frequently replaced leaves to those with strategies more attuned to a nutrient-conserving lifestyle. Australian species tended to have SLAs at the lower end of the spectrum, as expected in a dataset dominated by sclerophyllous species from low fertility or low rainfall sites. The existence of broad-scale, 'global' relationships does not imply that the same trait relationships will always be observed in small datasets. In particular, the probability of observing concordant patterns depends on the range of trait variation in a dataset, which, itself, may vary with sample size or species-sampling properties such as the range of growth forms, plant functional 'types', or taxa included in a particular study. The considerable scatter seen in these broad-scale trait relationships may be associated with climate, physiology and phylogeny.
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