It has been observed that leaf morphology shift within species is linked to climate change, but there are few studies on the effects of altitude change on leaf morphology of species. We hypothesized that similar to climate change, a morphological shift within species would occur over time under different growing altitudes. In this study, we evaluated three dominant grass species: Elymus nutans Griseb., Kobresia capillifolia Clarke., Carex moorcroftii Booth., taking advantage of the altitudinal variations (3000–4000 a.s.l.) on the Qinghai-Tibetan Plateau. Our study showed that almost all leaf traits of these three species had significant differences (P <0.05) across an altitudinal gradient. Different species responded differently to altitude change. Leaf thickness (LT) of the three species increased with increase in altitude. Leaf area (LA) of E. nutans and C. moorcroftii decreased with increasing altitude, but that of K. capillifolia increased. There was no obvious linear effect on leaf dry matter content (LDMC) and specific leaf area (SLA) of these three species. LDMC of E. nutans and C. moorcroftii showed a trend of increase, while that of K. capillifolia decreased. SLA of E. nutans and K. capillifolia showed a trend of increase, but that of C. moorcroftii decreased with increase in altitude. In addition, soil pH (pH) and air temperature (AT) decreased with increase in altitude. However, other soil and climate factors increased as altitude increased. The finding of this work is that leaf morphology shift within species happens under altitude change to adapt to specific environment.
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Vol. 62 • No. 4