Concentrations and bioconcentration factors of leaf microelements in response to environmental gradients in drylands of China

Yahui Zhang, Shubin Xie, Xiaoting Wang, Muhammad Adnan Akram, Weigang Hu, Longwei Dong, Ying Sun, Hailing Li, Abraham Allan Degen, Junlan Xiong, Jinzhi Ran, Jianming Deng

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

1 Scopus citations


Determining response patterns of plant leaf elements to environmental variables would be beneficial in understanding plant adaptive strategies and in predicting ecosystem biogeochemistry processes. Despite the vital role of microelements in life chemistry and ecosystem functioning, little is known about how plant microelement concentrations, especially their bioconcentration factors (BCFs, the ratio of plant to soil concentration of elements), respond to large-scale environmental gradients, such as aridity, soil properties and anthropogenic activities, in drylands. The aim of the present study was to fill this important gap. We determined leaf microelement BCFs by measuring the concentrations of Mn, Fe, Ni, Cu and Zn in soils from 33 sites and leaves of 111 plants from 67 species across the drylands of China. Leaf microelement concentrations were maintained within normal ranges to satisfy the basic requirements of plants, even in nutrient-poor soil. Aridity, soil organic carbon (SOC) and electrical conductivity (EC) had positive effects, while soil pH had a negative effect on leaf microelement concentrations. Except for Fe, aridity affected leaf microelement BCFs negatively and indirectly by increasing soil pH and SOC. Anthropogenic activities and soil clay contents had relatively weak impacts on both leaf microelement concentrations and BCFs. Moreover, leaf microelement concentrations and BCFs shifted with thresholds at 0.89 for aridity and 7.9 and 8.9 for soil pH. Woody plants were positive indicator species and herbaceous plants were mainly negative indicator species of leaf microelement concentrations and BCFs for aridity and soil pH. Our results suggest that increased aridity limits the absorption of microelements by plant leaves and enhances leaf microelement concentrations. The identification of indicator species for the response of plant microelements to aridity and key soil characteristics revealed that woody species in drylands were more tolerant to environmental changes than herbaceous species.

Original languageEnglish
Article number1143442
JournalFrontiers in Plant Science
StatePublished - 1 Jan 2023


  • Northern China
  • aridity
  • bioconcentration factor
  • indicator plant species
  • leaf microelements

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Plant Science


Dive into the research topics of 'Concentrations and bioconcentration factors of leaf microelements in response to environmental gradients in drylands of China'. Together they form a unique fingerprint.

Cite this