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      Plant species traits are the predominant control on litter decomposition rates within biomes worldwide

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          Abstract

          Worldwide decomposition rates depend both on climate and the legacy of plant functional traits as litter quality. To quantify the degree to which functional differentiation among species affects their litter decomposition rates, we brought together leaf trait and litter mass loss data for 818 species from 66 decomposition experiments on six continents. We show that: (i) the magnitude of species-driven differences is much larger than previously thought and greater than climate-driven variation; (ii) the decomposability of a species' litter is consistently correlated with that species' ecological strategy within different ecosystems globally, representing a new connection between whole plant carbon strategy and biogeochemical cycling. This connection between plant strategies and decomposability is crucial for both understanding vegetation-soil feedbacks, and for improving forecasts of the global carbon cycle.

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          The worldwide leaf economics spectrum.

          Bringing together leaf trait data spanning 2,548 species and 175 sites we describe, for the first time at global scale, a universal spectrum of leaf economics consisting of key chemical, structural and physiological properties. The spectrum runs from quick to slow return on investments of nutrients and dry mass in leaves, and operates largely independently of growth form, plant functional type or biome. Categories along the spectrum would, in general, describe leaf economic variation at the global scale better than plant functional types, because functional types overlap substantially in their leaf traits. Overall, modulation of leaf traits and trait relationships by climate is surprisingly modest, although some striking and significant patterns can be seen. Reliable quantification of the leaf economics spectrum and its interaction with climate will prove valuable for modelling nutrient fluxes and vegetation boundaries under changing land-use and climate.
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            From tropics to tundra: global convergence in plant functioning.

            Despite striking differences in climate, soils, and evolutionary history among diverse biomes ranging from tropical and temperate forests to alpine tundra and desert, we found similar interspecific relationships among leaf structure and function and plant growth in all biomes. Our results thus demonstrate convergent evolution and global generality in plant functioning, despite the enormous diversity of plant species and biomes. For 280 plant species from two global data sets, we found that potential carbon gain (photosynthesis) and carbon loss (respiration) increase in similar proportion with decreasing leaf life-span, increasing leaf nitrogen concentration, and increasing leaf surface area-to-mass ratio. Productivity of individual plants and of leaves in vegetation canopies also changes in constant proportion to leaf life-span and surface area-to-mass ratio. These global plant functional relationships have significant implications for global scale modeling of vegetation-atmosphere CO2 exchange.
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              Nitrogen and Lignin Control of Hardwood Leaf Litter Decomposition Dynamics

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                Author and article information

                Journal
                ELE
                Ecology Letters
                Wiley
                1461023X
                14610248
                October 2008
                October 2008
                : 11
                : 10
                : 1065-1071
                Article
                10.1111/j.1461-0248.2008.01219.x
                18627410
                d3308eec-be84-488f-86fd-73287ec52a20
                © 2008

                http://doi.wiley.com/10.1002/tdm_license_1.1

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