Tradeoff between stem hydraulic efficiency and mechanical strength affects leaf-stem allometry in 28 Ficus tree species

Ze Xin Fan*, Frank Sterck, Shi Bao Zhang, Pei Li Fu, Guang You Hao

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticleAcademicpeer-review

16 Citations (Scopus)


Leaf-stem allometry is an important spectrum that linked to biomass allocation and life history strategy in plants, although the determinants and evolutionary significance of leaf-stem allometry remain poorly understood. Leaf and stem architectures - including stem area/mass, petiole area/mass, lamina area/mass, leaf number, specific leaf area (LA), and mass-based leafing intensity (LI) - were measured on the current-year branches for 28 Ficus species growing in a common garden in SW China. The leaf anatomical traits, stem wood density (WD), and stem anatomical and mechanical properties of these species were also measured. We analyzed leaf-stem allometric relationships and their associations with stem hydraulic ad mechanical properties using species-level data and phylogenetically independent contrasts. We found isometric relationship between leaf lamina area/mass and stem area/mass, suggesting that the biomass allocation to leaf was independent to stem size. However, allometric relationship between LA/mass and petiole mass was found, indicating large leaves invest a higher fractional of biomass in petiole than small ones. LI, i.e., leaf numbers per unit of stem mass, was negatively related with leaf and stem size. Species with larger terminal branches tend to have larger vessels and theoretical hydraulic conductivity, but lower WD and mechanical strength. The size of leaf lamina, petiole, and stem was correlated positively with stem theoretical hydraulic conductivity, but negatively with stem WD and mechanical strength. Our results suggest that leaf-stem allometry in Ficus species was shaped by the trade-off between stem hydraulic efficiency and mechanical stability, supporting a functional interpretation of the relationship between leaf and stem dimensions.

Original languageEnglish
Article number1619
Number of pages10
JournalFrontiers in Plant Science
Publication statusPublished - 20 Sep 2017


  • Biomass allocation
  • Ficus
  • Leaf-stem relationship
  • Mechanical strength
  • Theoretical hydraulic conductivity
  • Trade-off
  • Wood density

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