Wood properties are related to tree physiology and mechanical stability and are influenced by both phylogeny and the environment. However, it remains unclear to what extent geographical gradients in wood traits are shaped by either phylogeny or the environment.
By employing the method of phylogenetic independent contrast, Prof. Cao Kunfang and his research team of XTBG compiled a data set of 11 wood properties for 618 tree species from 98 sampling sites in China to assess their phylogenetic and spatial patterns, and to determine how many of the spatial patterns in wood properties are attributable to the environment after correction for phylogenetic influences.
The research found that the spatial variations in wood traits were shaped by environment and phylogenetic constraints that limit the environmental adaptability of tree species. Mean annual precipitation (MAP) was more important than mean annual temperature (MAT) in explaining the spatial patterns of wood traits in trees across China. Wood traits were highly evolutionarily conservative and wood density (WD) showed correlated evolution with mechanical properties.
The study provides valuable insights into the geographical patterns in productivity, distribution and ecological strategy of trees linking to wood traits.
The research entitled “Spatial patterns of wood traits in China are controlled by phylogeny and environment” has been published online in Global Ecology and Biogeography, DOI: 10.1111/j.1466-8238.2010.00582.x