Letter

Nature 439, 457-461 (26 January 2006) | doi:10.1038/nature04282; Received 20 June 2005; Accepted 29 September 2005

There is a Corrigendum (15 June 2006) associated with this document.

There is a Brief Communication Arising (1 February 2007) associated with this document.

Universal scaling of respiratory metabolism, size and nitrogen in plants

Peter B. Reich1, Mark G. Tjoelker2, Jose-Luis Machado3 & Jacek Oleksyn4

  1. Department of Forest Resources, University of Minnesota, St Paul, Minnesota 55108, USA
  2. Department of Forest Science, Texas A&M University, College Station, Texas 77843, USA
  3. Department of Biology, Swarthmore College, Swarthmore, Pennsylvania 19081, USA
  4. Polish Academy of Sciences, Institute of Dendrology, PL-62-035 Kornik, Poland

Correspondence to: Peter B. Reich1 Correspondence and requests for materials should be addressed to P.B.R. (Email: preich@umn.edu).

The scaling of respiratory metabolism to body size in animals is considered to be a fundamental law of nature1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 6, 7, 8, 9, 10, 11, and there is substantial evidence for an approximate Unfortunately we are unable to provide accessible alternative text for this. If you require assistance to access this image, or to obtain a text description, please contact npg@nature.com-power relation. Studies suggest that plant respiratory metabolism also scales as the Unfortunately we are unable to provide accessible alternative text for this. If you require assistance to access this image, or to obtain a text description, please contact npg@nature.com-power of mass12, 13, 14, and that higher plant and animal scaling follow similar rules owing to the predominance of fractal-like transport networks and associated allometric scaling8, 9, 10, 11, 12, 13, 14. Here, however, using data obtained from about 500 laboratory and field-grown plants from 43 species and four experiments, we show that whole-plant respiration rate scales approximately isometrically (scaling exponent approximately 1) with total plant mass in individual experiments and has no common relation across all data. Moreover, consistent with theories about biochemically based physiological scaling15, 16, 17, 18, isometric scaling of whole-plant respiration rate to total nitrogen content is observed within and across all data sets, with a single relation common to all data. This isometric scaling is unaffected by growth conditions including variation in light, nitrogen availability, temperature and atmospheric CO2 concentration, and is similar within or among species or functional groups. These findings suggest that plants and animals follow different metabolic scaling relations, driven by distinct mechanisms.

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