Canonical rules for plant organ biomass partitioning and annual allocation

Karl J. Niklas, Brian J. Enquist

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

150 Scopus citations


Here we review a general allometric model for the allometric relationships among standing leaf, stem, and root biomass (ML, MS, and MR, respectively) and the exponents for the relationships among annual leaf, stem, and root biomass production or "growth rates" (GL, GS, and GR, respectively). This model predicts that ML α MS3/4 α MR3/4 such that MS α MR and that GL α GS α GR. A large synoptic data set for standing plant organ biomass and organ biomass production spanning ten orders of magnitude in total plant body mass supports these predictions. Although the numerical values for the allometric "constants" governing these scaling relationships differ between angiosperms and conifers, across all species, standing leaf, stem, and root biomass, respectively, comprise 8%, 67%, and 25% of total plant biomass, whereas annual leaf, stem, and root biomass growth represent 30%, 57%, and 13% of total plant growth. Importantly, our analyses of large data sets confirm the existence of scaling exponents predicted by theory. These scaling "rules" emerge from simple biophysical mechanisms that hold across a remarkably broad spectrum of ecologically and phyletically divergent herbaceous and tree-sized monocot, dicot, and conifer species. As such, they are likely to extend into evolutionary history when tracheophytes with the stereotypical "leaf," "stem," and "root" body plan first appeared.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)812-819
Number of pages8
JournalAmerican journal of botany
Issue number5
StatePublished - 2002


  • Allometry
  • Biomass allocation
  • Organ biomass
  • Plant growth

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Ecology, Evolution, Behavior and Systematics
  • Genetics
  • Plant Science


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