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Ann Bot. 2007 Aug;100(2):283-303. Epub 2007 Jun 22.

Do we underestimate the importance of leaf size in plant economics? Disproportional scaling of support costs within the spectrum of leaf physiognomy.

Author information

1
Department of Plant Physiology, University of Tartu, Riia 23, Tartu, Estonia. ylo@emu.ee

Abstract

BACKGROUND:

Broad scaling relationships between leaf size and function do not take into account that leaves of different size may contain different fractions of support in petiole and mid-rib.

METHODS:

The fractions of leaf biomass in petiole, mid-rib and lamina, and the differences in chemistry and structure among mid-ribs, petioles and laminas were investigated in 122 species of contrasting leaf size, life form and climatic distribution to determine the extent to which differences in support modify whole-lamina and whole-leaf structural and chemical characteristics, and the extent to which size-dependent support investments are affected by plant life form and site climate.

KEY RESULTS:

For the entire data set, leaf fresh mass varied over five orders of magnitude. The percentage of dry mass in mid-rib increased strongly with lamina size, reaching more than 40 % in the largest laminas. The whole-leaf percentage of mid-rib and petiole increased with leaf size, and the overall support investment was more than 60 % in the largest leaves. Fractional support investments were generally larger in herbaceous than in woody species and tended to be lower in Mediterranean than in cool temperate and tropical plants. Mid-ribs and petioles had lower N and C percentages, and lower dry to fresh mass ratio, but greater density (mass per unit volume) than laminas. N percentage of lamina without mid-rib was up to 40 % higher in the largest leaves than the total-lamina (lamina and mid-rib) N percentage, and up to 60 % higher than whole-leaf N percentage, while lamina density calculated without mid-rib was up to 80 % less than that with the mid-rib. For all leaf compartments, N percentage was negatively associated with density and dry to fresh mass ratio, while C percentage was positively linked to these characteristics, reflecting the overall inverse scaling between structural and physiological characteristics. However, the correlations between N and C percentages and structural characteristics differed among mid-ribs, petioles and laminas, implying that the mass-weighted average leaf N and C percentage, density, and dry to fresh mass ratio can have different functional values depending on the importance of within-leaf support investments.

CONCLUSIONS:

These data demonstrate that variation in leaf size is associated with major changes in within-leaf support investments and in large modifications in integrated leaf chemical and structural characteristics. These size-dependent alterations can importantly affect general leaf structure vs. function scaling relationships. These data further demonstrate important life-form effects on and climatic differentiation in foliage support costs.

PMID:
17586597
PMCID:
PMC2735320
DOI:
10.1093/aob/mcm107
[Indexed for MEDLINE]
Free PMC Article

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