Plants have developed a suite of traits to survive the anaerobic and anoxic soil conditions in wetlands. Previous studies on wetland plant adaptive traits have focused mainly on physiological aspects under experimental conditions, or compared the trait expression of the local species pool. Thus, a comprehensive analysis of potential factors driving wetland plant adaptive traits under natural environmental conditions is still missing.
In this study, we analysed three important wetland adaptive traits, i.e. root porosity, root/shoot ratio and underwater photosynthetic rate, to explore driving factors using a newly compiled dataset of wetland plants. Based on 21 studies at 38 sites across different biomes, we found that root porosity was affected by an interaction of temperature and hydrological regime; root:shoot ratio was affected by temperature, precipitation and habitat type; and underwater photosynthetic rate was affected by precipitation and life form. This suggests that a variety of driving mechanisms affect the expression of different adaptive traits.
The quantitative relationships we observed between the adaptive traits and their driving factors will be a useful reference for future global methane and denitrification modelling studies. Our results also stress that besides the traditionally emphasized hydrological driving factors, other factors at several spatial scales should also be taken into consideration in the context of future functional wetland ecology.