Variación en rasgos foliares de plantas perennes en clima semiárido

Peter Grubb, Malole Díaz-Villa, Lawren Sack and Teodoro Marañón (from left to right) at Cabo de Gata, April 7th 2000.

Peter Grubb, Malole Díaz-Villa, Lawren Sack and Teodoro Marañón (from left to right) at Cabo de Gata, April 7th 2000.

Plants living in semiarid environments have singular adaptations to cope with the shortage of water, including morphological and physiological mechanisms to grow avoiding water loss, or by storing water in leaves and stems (succulents).

In a study led by Prof. Peter Grubb (University of Cambridge), in collaboration with researchers of the CSIC (IRNAS and EEZA) and UCLA, leaf traits of 30 woody species from the semiarid southeast Spain were analysed.

There was a wide range (8 times) of nitrogen concentration in leaves, from 4 mg/g in the grass Stipa tenacissima to 34 mg/g in Sideritis pusilla (Lamiaceae). Leaf water concentration also varied widely (8 times), from 1.60 g/g in the grass Stipa tenacissima to 13.3 g/g in the succulent Sedum gypsicola. Specific leaf area, indicating thickness and density, varied about 5 times, from 25 cm2/g for the grass Stipa tenacissima to 137 cm2/g for the legume Anthyllis terniflora. Among the non-succulent species leaf traits were correlated as in many types of vegetation, but among the succulent species this was not the case.

The ratio between nitrogen and phosphorus in leaves is commonly used as indicator of the limiting nutrient, being limited by N when 16. In the semiarid species from SE Spain a few (5 species) were apparently limited by nitrogen (N/P16).

The results pointed out the interest of studying plant species in semiarid SE Spain (with about 200 mm/year of rainfall) to test some of the accepted paradigms in leaf trait interrelationships and plant functional ecology.

This study has been published in the Journal of Arid Environments

Grubb, P. J., Marañón, T., Pugnaire, F. I., & Sack, L. (2015). Relationships between specific leaf area and leaf composition in succulent and non-succulent species of contrasting semi-desert communities in south-eastern Spain. Journal of Arid Environments, 118, 69-83.

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