Construction costs and mesostructure of leaves in hydrophytes
Leaf mass per unit area (LMA), carbon and nitrogen contents, leaf construction cost, and photosynthetic capacity (P max) of Adiantum reniforme var. sinensis, an endangered fern endemic to the Three Gorges region in southwest China, were compared in five populations differing in habitat such as soil moisture and irradiance. The low soil moisture and high irradiance habitat population exhibited significantly higher LMA, area-based leaf construction (CCA), and carbon content (CA), but lower leaf nitrogen content per unit dry mass (NM) than the other habitat populations. The high soil moisture and low irradiance habitat populations had the lowest CCA, but their cost/benefic ratios of CCA/P max were similar to the medium soil moisture and irradiance habitat population due to their lower leaf P max. Hence A. reniforme var. sinensis prefers partially shaded, moist but well-drained, slope habitats. Due to human activities, however, its main habitats now are cliffs or steeply sloped bare rocks with poor and thin soil. The relatively high energy requirements and low photosynthetic capacity in these habitats could limit the capability of the species in extending population or interspecific competition and hence increase its endangerment.