The allometric relationships between the modular characteristics of plants were confirmed by a fractal-like network, metabolism theory and other methods (Enquist and Niklas 2002, Niklas 2004, Pretzsch and Dieler 2012), and verified by a large quantity of measured data. It is predicted that there are isometric relationships between the biomass allocations of plants, while the relationships between other modular characteristics are mainly allometric (Niklas 2004, 2005). In this study, with the exception of the individual parameters of individual species, there were significant allometric relationships between most of the morphological characteristics for eight xerophytic shrubs, and between the morphological characteristics and biomass allocations, which was consistent with the theoretical prediction. However, there were also allometric relationships between belowground biomass (BGB) or total biomass (TGB) and aboveground biomass (AGB) for H. Mongolicum, H. scoparium, N. tangutorum, P. mongolica and Z. xanthoxylum, which didn’t conform to the theoretical prediction. This difference might be caused by the ability of the above five shrubs to store additional resources in root organs to ensure that plants can germinate and grow again in the coming year. This study also found that the BGB-TGB of the eight species accorded with the significant isometric relationships, which conformed to the theoretical prediction and supported the above view.
There was no common αRMA between plant height (H) or BGB and crown area (C), which was mainly caused by the differences in the activity of plant body length (L) and width (W) of different xerophytic shrubs in order to adapt to the drought environment. The results indicated that there was no consistent rule of synergetic change between H or BGB and C for xerophytic shrubs. Niklas (2004) analyzed the allometric relationships between the morphological characteristics and biomass allocations for two ferns and one dicotyledonous plant. The results revealed that although the growth rate was non-isometric, the morphological characteristics of the three species and the allocation of organic biomass had a consistent rule of synergetic change. The difference between the result of Niklas and our result might be caused by species, life forms, and even environmental factors.
This study showed that the αRMA of C-H fluctuated most between morphological characteristics of different species, as well as the A. mongolicus and P. mongolica had the largest (αRMA = 1.084) and smallest αRMA (αRMA = -1.926), respectively. The αRMA of C-BGB fluctuated most between morphological characteristics and biomass allocations of different species, as well as the N. tangutorum and P. mongolica had the largest (αRMA = 0.535) and smallest αRMA (αRMA = -0.961), respectively. From the above results, it could be seen that the species with the largest αRMA was different for C-H and C-BGB, which might be caused by individual plant development. The allometric relationships between plant attributes are influenced by individual plant development, whereas the allometric relationships between modular characteristics of different species have variable trends with individual plant development, which are species-specific.
The allocation of biomass reflects the adaptation strategies of plants to align with the availability of resources (Liu et al. 2010, Gutiérrez-Girón and Gavilán 2012). The above- and below-ground growth of plants is a unified whole. The acquisition of water and nutrients is primarily contingent on strong roots, while the acquisition of light and the loss of water are more related to leaves (Poorter and Pothmann 1992, Andrade et al. 2014). During the process of plant growth, with changes in available resources, their various organs will develop harmoniously, and modify their existing resource utilization strategies to maintain their own growth and development requirements (Hara 1994). In this study, the double logarithm fitting curves between above- and belowground biomass were similar and the αRMA of the eight species all fluctuated near 1. This result signified that although the eight species had differences in isometric and allometric relationships, there was a relatively consistent trend of collaborative change in the biomass allocation pattern of above- and below-ground (Li et al. 2017). Moreover, the common αRMA and Pearson correlation coefficient (R2) between biomass allocations of different species in this study also confirmed the conclusion that the allometric relationship between biomass allocations has nothing to do with species. This result was similar to that of Enquist and Niklas (2002) regarding the patterns of biomass partitioning in seed plants.