Variations and determinants of carbon content in plants: a global synthesis
Abstract. Plant carbon (C) content is one of the most important plant traits and is critical to the assessment of global C cycle and ecological stoichiometry; however, the global variations in plant C content remain poorly understood. In this study, we conducted a global analysis of the plant C content by synthesizing data from 4318 species to document specific values and their variation of the C content across plant organs and life forms. Plant organ C contents ranged from 45.0 % in reproductive organs to 47.9 % in stems at global scales, which were significantly lower than the widely employed canonical value of 50 %. Plant C content in leaves (global mean of 46.9 %) was higher than that in roots (45.6 %). Across life forms, woody plants exhibited higher C content than herbaceous plants. Conifers, relative to broad-leaved woody species, had higher C content in roots, leaves, and stems. Plant C content tended to show a decrease with increasing latitude. The life form explained more variation of the C content than climate. Our findings suggest that specific C content values of different organs and life forms developed in our study should be incorporated into the estimations of regional and global vegetation biomass C stocks.