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Open AccessArticle

Trait Gradient Analysis for Evergreen and Deciduous Species in a Subtropical Forest

by Liangjin Yao 1, Yi Ding 1,2, Lan Yao 3, Xunru Ai 3 and Runguo Zang 1,2,*
1
Research Institute of Forest Ecology, Environment, and Protection, Chinese Academy of Forestry, Key Laboratory of Forest Ecology and Environment of the State Forestry and Grassland Administration, Beijing 100091, China
2
Co-Innovation Center for Sustainable Forestry in Southern China, Nanjing Forestry University, Nanjing 210037, China
3
School of Forestry and Horticulture, Hubei University for Nationalities, Enshi 445000, China
*
Author to whom correspondence should be addressed.
Forests 2020, 11(4), 364; https://doi.org/10.3390/f11040364
Received: 7 February 2020 / Revised: 18 March 2020 / Accepted: 22 March 2020 / Published: 25 March 2020
(This article belongs to the Section Forest Ecology and Management)
Leaf habits (e.g., evergreen or deciduous) can reflect strategies of species adapting to varied environmental conditions. However, how species with different leaf habits coexist within a plant community is still poorly understood. Trait gradient analysis is a new approach to partition plant functional trait variations into alpha (within-community) and beta (among-community) components to quantify the effects of environmental filtering and biotic competition on community assembly. Here, on the basis of establishing forty-eight forest dynamic plots in a subtropical evergreen and deciduous broadleaved mixed forest in central China and measuring of seven functional traits, we compared the trait variation patterns and influencing factors of evergreen and deciduous species by using the trait gradient analysis method. The results showed that there were significant differences between functional traits for evergreen and deciduous species. Alpha trait components consistently varied more widely than beta components. The correlation between species trait mean and the alpha of each trait was highly significant, but there was no significant correlation between beta and alpha trait values. There were relatively weak or nonexistent significant correlations among species mean trait values and alpha trait values of different functional traits. However, the beta trait value showed high and significant correlations in both evergreen and deciduous species. Our results indicated that evergreen and deciduous species adopt similar adaptation strategies (beta component) in the context of environmental change in the community. However, the species initially came to coexist via the ecological positioning of traits (alpha component), which helped reduce competition so individuals could obtain more resources. View Full-Text
Keywords: functional traits; trait-gradient analysis; leaf habit; traits differentiation; co-existence functional traits; trait-gradient analysis; leaf habit; traits differentiation; co-existence
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Yao, L.; Ding, Y.; Yao, L.; Ai, X.; Zang, R. Trait Gradient Analysis for Evergreen and Deciduous Species in a Subtropical Forest. Forests 2020, 11, 364.

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