Journal of Geographical Sciences ›› 2018, Vol. 28 ›› Issue (6): 791-801.doi: 10.1007/s11442-018-1505-x

• Research Articles • Previous Articles     Next Articles

Spatial patterns and environmental factors influencing leaf carbon content in the forests and shrublands of China

Hang ZHAO1,2(), Li XU1,2, Qiufeng WANG1,2, Jing TIAN1,2, Xuli TANG3, Zhiyao TANG4, Zongqiang XIE5, Nianpeng HE1,2, Guirui YU1,2,*()   

  1. 1. Key Laboratory of Ecosystem Network Observation and Modeling, Institute of Geographic Sciences and Natural Resources Research, CAS, Beijing 100101, China
    2. University of Chinese Academy of Sciences, Beijing 100049, China
    3. South China Botanical Garden, CAS, Guangzhou 510650, China
    4. Department of Ecology, College of Urban and Environmental Sciences, Peking University, Beijing 100871, China
    5. State Key Laboratory of Vegetation and Environmental Change, Institute of Botany, CAS, Beijing 100093, China
  • Received:2017-05-31 Accepted:2017-10-17 Online:2018-06-20 Published:2018-06-20
  • Contact: Guirui YU;
  • About author:*Corresponding author: Yu Guirui, Professor, E-mail:

    Author: Zhao Hang (1991-), PhD, specialized in plant carbon and nitrogen storage. E-mail:

  • Supported by:
    National Key R&D Program of China, No.2016YFA0600103, No.2017YFA0604803;Youth Innovation Research Team Project, No.LENOM2016Q0005


Leaf carbon content (LCC) is widely used as an important parameter in estimating ecosystem carbon (C) storage, as well as for investigating the adaptation strategies of vegetation to their environment at a large scale. In this study, we used a dataset collected from forests (5119 plots) and shrublands (2564 plots) in China, 2011-2015. The plots were sampled following a consistent protocol, and we used the data to explore the spatial patterns of LCC at three scales: plot scale, eco-region scale (n = 24), and eco-region scale (n = 8). The average LCC of forests and shrublands combined was 45.3%, with the LCC of forests (45.5%) being slightly higher than that of shrublands (44.9%). Forest LCC ranged from 40.2% to 51.2% throughout the 24 eco-regions, while that of shrublands ranged from 35% to 50.1%. Forest LCC decreased with increasing latitude and longitude, whereas shrubland LCC decreased with increasing latitude, but increased with increasing longitude. The LCC increased, to some extent, with increasing temperature and precipitation. These results demonstrate the spatial patterns of LCC in the forests and shrublands at different scales based on field-measured data, providing a reference (or standard) for estimating carbon storage in vegetation at a regional scale.

Key words: carbon storage, eco-regions, foliar carbon, shrubs, stoichiometry, China