On the vegetative biomass partitioning of seed plant leaves, stems, and roots

Karl J. Niklas, Brian J. Enquist

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

207 Scopus citations


A central goal of comparative life-history theory is to derive the general rules governing growth, metabolic allocation, and biomass partitioning. Here, we use allometric theory to predict the relationships among annual leaf, stem, and root growth rates (GL, GS, and GR, respectively) across a broad spectrum of seed plant species. Our model predicts isometric scaling relationships among all three organ growth rates: GL∝ cc Gs ∝ GR. It also provides a conceptual basis for understanding the differences in the absolute amounts of biomass allocated to construct the three organ types. Analyses of a large compendium of biomass production rates across diverse seed plant species provide strong statistical support for the predictions of the theory and indicate that reproductive investments may scale isometrically with respect to vegetative organ growth rates. The general rules governing biomass allocation as indexed by the scaling exponents for organ growth rates are remarkably indifferent to plant size and taxonomic affiliation. However, the allometric "constants" for these relationships differ numerically as a function of phenotypic features and local environmental conditions. Nonetheless, at the level of both inter- and intraspecific comparisons, the same proportional biomass allocation pattern holds across extant seed plant species.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)482-497
Number of pages16
JournalAmerican Naturalist
Issue number5
StatePublished - 2002


  • Allometry
  • Biomass allocation
  • Organ growth
  • Plant size
  • Seed plants

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Ecology, Evolution, Behavior and Systematics


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