Congruence of intraspecific variability in leaf traits for two co-occurring estuarine angiosperms

Lara B. Ainley*, Adriana Vergés, Melanie J. Bishop

*Corresponding author for this work

    Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

    1 Citation (Scopus)


    Studies seeking to identify sources of variability and trade-offs in leaf traits have done so by assembling large databases of traits, across species and time points. It is unclear to what extent interspecific patterns derived in such a manner apply to intraspecific variation, particularly at regional scales, and the extent to which interspecific patterns vary temporally. We tested the hypothesis that the leaf traits of two foundation species, the mangrove Avicenniamarina and the eelgrass Zosteramuelleri, would display similar patterns of intraspecific variability across gradients of latitude and estuarine condition, that match previously reported interspecific patterns, and that persist through time. We found intraspecific patterns of decreasing carbon to nitrogen ratio and mechanical elasticity, and increasing nitrogen content with latitude that were consistent between the two plant species, and with previously reported interspecific patterns for other groups of species. Specific leaf area, leaf toughness and total phenolics, by contrast, displayed species-specific patterns that varied markedly through time. Relationships between estuarine condition and leaf traits were highly variable temporally, and also displayed markedly different patterns of intraspecific variability between the two species. Our study highlights the considerable within-species variation in leaf traits that should be accounted for in regional to biome scale analyses. Although some intraspecific patterns mirrored those found across species, at global scales, the considerable variability in other leaf traits between species and through time highlights the need to better understand the drivers and constraints of this intraspecific variation.

    Original languageEnglish
    Pages (from-to)1041-1053
    Number of pages13
    Issue number4
    Publication statusPublished - 1 Aug 2016


    • interspecific variation
    • latitude
    • mangrove
    • seagrass
    • trait relationships


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