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Abstract

Plants show an extraordinary diversity in chemical composition and are characterized by different functional traits. However, relationships between the foliar primary and specialized metabolism in terms of metabolite numbers and composition as well as links with the leaf economics spectrum have rarely been explored. We investigated these relationships in leaves of 20 woody species from the Mediterranean region grown as saplings in a common garden, using a comparative ecometabolomics approach that included (semi-)polar primary and specialized metabolites. Our analyses revealed significant positive correlations between both the numbers and relative composition of primary and specialized metabolites. The leaf metabolomes were highly species-specific but in addition showed some phylogenetic imprints. Moreover, metabolomes of deciduous species were distinct from those of evergreens. Significant relationships were found between the primary metabolome and nitrogen content and carbon/nitrogen ratio, important traits of the leaf economics spectrum, ranging from acquisitive (mostly deciduous) to conservative (evergreen) leaves. A comprehensive understanding of various leaf traits and their coordination in different plant species may facilitate our understanding of plant functioning in ecosystems. Chemodiversity is thereby an important component of biodiversity.

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