How does biomass distribution change with size and differ among species? An analysis for 1200 plant species from five continents
Published Web Locationhttps://doi.org/10.1111/nph.13571
We compiled a global database for leaf, stem and root biomass representing c. 11 000 records for c. 1200 herbaceous and woody species grown under either controlled or field conditions. We used this data set to analyse allometric relationships and fractional biomass distribution to leaves, stems and roots. We tested whether allometric scaling exponents are generally constant across plant sizes as predicted by metabolic scaling theory, or whether instead they change dynamically with plant size. We also quantified interspecific variation in biomass distribution among plant families and functional groups. Across all species combined, leaf vs stem and leaf vs root scaling exponents decreased from c. 1.00 for small plants to c. 0.60 for the largest trees considered. Evergreens had substantially higher leaf mass fractions (LMFs) than deciduous species, whereas graminoids maintained higher root mass fractions (RMFs) than eudicotyledonous herbs. These patterns do not support the hypothesis of fixed allometric exponents. Rather, continuous shifts in allometric exponents with plant size during ontogeny and evolution are the norm. Across seed plants, variation in biomass distribution among species is related more to function than phylogeny. We propose that the higher LMF of evergreens at least partly compensates for their relatively low leaf area : leaf mass ratio.