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Ellison Abstract- 2009 Karagatzides and Ellison

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Karagatzides, J. D., and A. M. Ellison. 2009. Construction costs, payback times and the leaf economics of carnivorous plants. American Journal of Botany 96: 1619-1626.


Understanding how different plant species and functional types "invest" carbon and nutrients is a major goal of plant ecologists. Two measures of such investments are "construction costs" (carbon needed to produce each gram of tissue) and associated "payback times" for photosynthesis to recover construction costs. These measurements integrate among traits used to assess leaf-trait scaling relationships. Carnivorous plants are model systems for examining mechanisms of leaf-trait coordination, but no studies have measured simultaneously construction costs of carnivorous traps and their photosynthetic rates to determine payback times of traps. We measured mass-based construction costs (CCmass) and photosynthesis (Amass) for traps, leaves, roots, and rhizomes of 15 carnivorous plant species grown under greenhouse conditions. There were highly significant differences among species in CCmass for each structure. Average CCmass of carnivorous traps (1.14 ± 0.24 g glucose /g dry mass) was significantly lower than CCmass of leaves of 267 non-carnivorous plant species (1.47 ± 0.17), but all carnivorous plants examined had very low Amass and thus, long payback times (495-1551 hours). Our results provide the first clear estimates of the marginal benefits of botanical carnivory, and locate carnivorous plants at the "slow and tough" end of the universal spectrum of leaf traits.

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