Global variability in leaf respiration in relation to climate, plant functional types and leaf traits

New Phytol. 2015 Apr;206(2):614-36. doi: 10.1111/nph.13253. Epub 2015 Jan 8.


Leaf dark respiration (Rdark ) is an important yet poorly quantified component of the global carbon cycle. Given this, we analyzed a new global database of Rdark and associated leaf traits. Data for 899 species were compiled from 100 sites (from the Arctic to the tropics). Several woody and nonwoody plant functional types (PFTs) were represented. Mixed-effects models were used to disentangle sources of variation in Rdark . Area-based Rdark at the prevailing average daily growth temperature (T) of each site increased only twofold from the Arctic to the tropics, despite a 20°C increase in growing T (8-28°C). By contrast, Rdark at a standard T (25°C, Rdark (25) ) was threefold higher in the Arctic than in the tropics, and twofold higher at arid than at mesic sites. Species and PFTs at cold sites exhibited higher Rdark (25) at a given photosynthetic capacity (Vcmax (25) ) or leaf nitrogen concentration ([N]) than species at warmer sites. Rdark (25) values at any given Vcmax (25) or [N] were higher in herbs than in woody plants. The results highlight variation in Rdark among species and across global gradients in T and aridity. In addition to their ecological significance, the results provide a framework for improving representation of Rdark in terrestrial biosphere models (TBMs) and associated land-surface components of Earth system models (ESMs).

Keywords: acclimation; aridity; climate models; leaf nitrogen (N); photosynthesis; plant functional types (PFTs); respiration; temperature.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Acclimatization
  • Carbon Cycle*
  • Carbon Dioxide / metabolism*
  • Cell Respiration
  • Climate
  • Models, Theoretical
  • Nitrogen / metabolism*
  • Phenotype
  • Photosynthesis
  • Plant Leaves / metabolism*
  • Plant Leaves / radiation effects
  • Plants / metabolism*
  • Plants / radiation effects
  • Temperature


  • Carbon Dioxide
  • Nitrogen