AbstractBackground and Aims
Hydrophytes generally exhibit highly acquisitive leaf economics. However, a range of growth forms is evident, from small, free-floating and rapidly growing Lemniden to large, broad-leaved Nymphaeiden, denoting variability in adaptive strategies. Traits used to classify adaptive strategies in terrestrial species, such as canopy height, are not applicable to hydrophytes. We hypothesize that hydrophyte leaf size traits and economics exhibit sufficient overlap with terrestrial species to allow a common classification of plant functional types, sensu Grime's CSR theory.Methods
Leaf morpho-functional traits were measured for 61 species from 47 water bodies in lowland continental, sub-alpine and alpine bioclimatic zones in southern Europe and compared against the full leaf economics spectrum and leaf size range of terrestrial herbs, and between hydrophyte growth forms.Key Results
Hydrophytes differed in the ranges and mean values of traits compared with herbs, but principal components analysis (PCA) demonstrated that both groups shared axes of trait variability: PCA1 encompassed size variation (area and mass), and PCA2 ranged from relatively dense, carbon-rich leaves to nitrogen-rich leaves of high specific leaf area (SLA). Most growth forms exhibited trait syndromes directly equivalent to herbs classified as R adapted, although Nymphaeiden ranged between C and SR adaptation.Conclusions
Our findings support the hypothesis that hydrophyte adaptive strategy variation reflects fundamental trade-offs in economics and size that govern all plants, and that hydrophyte adaptive strategies can be directly compared with terrestrial species by combining leaf economics and size traits.