Although broad-scale inter-specific patterns of leaf traits are influenced by climate, soil, and taxonomic identity, integrated assessments of these drivers remain rare. Here, we quantify these drivers in a field study of 171 plant species in 174 sites across Chinese grasslands, including the Tibetan Plateau, Inner Mongolia, and Xinjiang. General linear models were used to partition leaf trait variation. Of the total variation in leaf traits, on average 27% is due to taxonomic or phylogenetic differences among species within sites (pure species effect), 29% to variation among sites within species (pure site effect), 38% to joint effects of taxonomic and environmental factors (shared effect), and 6.2% to within-site and within-species variation. Examining the pure site effect, climate explained
7.8%, soil explained 7.4%, and climate and soil variables
together accounted for 11%, leaving 18% of the inter-site
variation due to factors other than climate or soil. The
results do not support the hypothesis that soil fertility is the "missing link" to explain leaf trait variation unexplained by climatic factors. Climate- and soil-induced leaf adaptations occur mostly among species, and leaf traits vary little within species in Chinese grassland plants, despite strongly varying climate and soil conditions.