Isometric scaling of above-And below-ground biomass at the individual and community levels in the understorey of a sub-Tropical forest

Dongliang Cheng, Quanlin Zhong, Karl J. Niklas, Yuzhu Ma, Yusheng Yang*, Jianhua ZHANG

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalJournal articlepeer-review

22 Citations (Scopus)


Background and Aims Empirical studies and allometric partitioning (AP) theory indicate that plant aboveground biomass (MA) scales, on average, one-To-one (isometrically) with below-ground biomass (MR) at the level of individual trees and at the level of entire forest communities. However, the ability of the AP theory to predict the biomass allocation patterns of understorey plants has not been established because most previous empirical tests have focused on canopy tree species or very large shrubs. Methods In order to test the AP theory further, 1586 understorey sub-Tropical forest plants from 30 sites in southeast China were harvested and examined. The numerical values of the scaling exponents and normalization constants (i.e. slopes and y-intercepts, respectively) of log-log linear MA vs. MR relationships were determined for all individual plants, for each site, across the entire data set, and for data sorted into a total of 19 sub-sets of forest types and successional stages. Similar comparisons of MA/MR were also made. Key Results The data revealed that the mean MA/MR of understorey plants was 2 44 and 1 57 across all 1586 plants and for all communities, respectively, and MA scaled nearly isometrically with respect to MR, with scaling exponents of 1 01 for all individual plants and 0 99 for all communities. The scaling exponents did not differ significantly among different forest types or successional stages, but the normalization constants did, and were positively correlated with MRMR and negatively correlated with scaling exponents across all 1586 plants. Conclusions The results support the AP theory's prediction that MA scales nearly one-To-one with MR (i.e. MR! MR &1 0) and that plant biomass partitioning for individual plants and at the community level share a strikingly similar pattern, at least for the understorey plants examined in this study. Furthermore, variation in environmental conditions appears to affect the numerical values of normalization constants, but not the scaling exponents of the MR vs. MR relationship. This feature of the results suggests that plant size is the primary driver of the MR vs. MR biomass allocation pattern for understorey plants in sub-Tropical forests.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)303-313
Number of pages11
JournalAnnals of Botany
Issue number2
Publication statusPublished - 1 Feb 2015

Scopus Subject Areas

  • Plant Science

User-Defined Keywords

  • Above-ground biomass
  • Above-To below-ground ratio
  • Allometric partitioning
  • Allometry
  • Belowground biomass
  • Broad-leafed forest
  • CUNNINGHAMIA lanceolata
  • Forest understorey
  • Isometric scaling
  • PINUS massoniana
  • Successional stage


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