Testing the growth rate hypothesis in vascular plants with above- and below-ground biomass

Qiang Yu, Honghui Wu, Nianpeng He, Xiaotao Lü, Zhiping Wang, James J. Elser, Jianguo Wu, Xingguo Han

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

80 Scopus citations


The growth rate hypothesis (GRH) proposes that higher growth rate (the rate of change in biomass per unit biomass, μ) is associated with higher P concentration and lower C:P and N:P ratios. However, the applicability of the GRH to vascular plants is not well-studied and few studies have been done on belowground biomass. Here we showed that, for aboveground, belowground and total biomass of three study species, μ was positively correlated with N:C under N limitation and positively correlated with P:C under P limitation. However, the N:P ratio was a unimodal function of μ, increasing for small values of μ, reaching a maximum, and then decreasing. The range of variations in μ was positively correlated with variation in C:N:P stoichiometry. Furthermore, μ and C:N:P ranges for aboveground biomass were negatively correlated with those for belowground. Our results confirm the well-known association of growth rate with tissue concentration of the limiting nutrient and provide empirical support for recent theoretical formulations.

Original languageEnglish
Article numbere32162
JournalPLoS ONE
Issue number3
StatePublished - Mar 13 2012


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