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Responses of leaf δ13C and leaf traits to precipitation and temperature in arid ecosystem of northwestern China

Xin ZM1,2, MH Liu2, Q Lu1,3, CA Busso5, YJ Zhu1,3, Z Li2, YR Huang2, XL Li2, FM Luo2, F Bao1, JQ Qian4*, YH Li1,3*

1 Institute of Desertification Studies, Chinese Academy of Forestry, Beijing 100091, China.
2 Experimental Center of Desert Forestry, Chinese Academy of Forestry, Dengkou County, Inner Mongolia 015200, China.
3 Kumtag Desert Ecosystem Research Station, State Forestry Administration, Dunhuang, Gansu 736200, China.
4 College of Forestry, Henan Agricultural University, Zhengzhou 450002, China.
5 Departamento de Agronomía-CERZOS (Centro de Recursos Naturales Renovables de la Zona Semiárida: CONICET), Universidad Nacional del Sur, San Andrés 800, 8000 Bahía Blanca, Buenos Aires, Argentina.

Address correspondence to: Yonghua Li & Jianqiang Qian, NO. 10 Huaishuju Road, Haidian District, Beijing 100091, China, e-mail: ;

Phyton-International Journal of Experimental Botany 2018, 87(all), 144-155.


Leaf δ13C is widely used to explain plant strategies related to resource availability in different environments. However, the coupled response of leaf δ13C to precipitation and temperature as well as the relationship between leaf δ13C and leaf traits remain unclear. The leaf δ13C and its relationship with leaf traits [leaf size (LS), leaf length (LL), leaf width (LW), leaf length to width ratio (L:W), specific leaf area (SLA) and mass-based leaf nitrogen concentration (Nmass)] were investigated on the dominant shrub species Nitraria tangutorum Bobr. in the arid region (Dengkou and Minqin) of northwestern China under the simulated increasing precipitation (PGS) and ambient temperature (TGS) in plant growing season from 2008 to 2010. Our results showed that LS, LW, LL, SLA and Nmass significantly increased with increasing PGS, but had decreasing tendencies with increasing TGS. However, the majority of the negative relationships between leaf traits and TGS were not obvious in Minqin. At the two study sites, L:W increased simultaneously with increasing PGS and TGS. There was a shift in the negative leaf δ13C-PGS relationship across Minqin and Dengkou, which lead to the lacking effects of precipitation on leaf δ13C across the two sites, and higher leaf δ13C at lower precipitation in Minqin. Across Minqin and Dengkou, PGS could only explain 14% of the variation in leaf δ13C. The combination of PGS and TGS could explain 64% of the variation in leaf δ13C. Leaf traits (LW and L:W) further improved the estimation of leaf δ13C. The combinations of PGS, TGS, LW and L:W could explain 84% of the variation in leaf δ13C. Our study demonstrated the importance of leaf traits in exploring the responses of leaf δ13C to global changes in arid ecosystems.


Cite This Article

ZM, X., Liu, M., Lu, Q., Busso, C., Zhu, Y. et al. (2018). Responses of leaf δ13C and leaf traits to precipitation and temperature in arid ecosystem of northwestern China. Phyton-International Journal of Experimental Botany, 87(all), 144–155.


This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 International License , which permits unrestricted use, distribution, and reproduction in any medium, provided the original work is properly cited.
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