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Ontogenetic changes in leaf traits of tropical rainforest trees differing in juvenile light requirement

By Nico C. Houter and Thijs L. Pons


Relationships between leaf traits and the gap dependence for regeneration, and ontogenetic changes therein, were investigated in juvenile and adult tropical rainforest tree species. The juveniles of the 17 species included in the study were grown in high light, similar to the exposed crowns of the adult trees. The traits were structural, biomechanical, chemical and photosynthetic. With increasing species gap dependence, leaf mass per area (LMA) decreased only slightly in juveniles and remained constant in adults, whereas punch strength together with tissue density decreased, and photosynthetic capacity and chlorophyll increased. Contrary to what has been mostly found in evergreen tropical rainforest, the trade-off between investment in longevity and in productivity was evident at an essentially constant LMA. Of the traits pertaining to the chloroplast level, photosynthetic capacity per unit chlorophyll increased with gap dependence, but the chlorophyll a/b ratio showed no relationship. Adults had a twofold higher LMA, but leaf strength was on average only about 50% larger. Leaf tissue density, and chlorophyll and leaf N per area were also higher, whereas chlorophyll and leaf N per unit dry mass were lower. Ranking of the species, relationships between traits and with the gap dependence of the species were similar for juveniles and adults. However, the magnitudes of most ontogenetic changes were not clearly related to a species’ gap dependence. The adaptive value of the leaf traits for juveniles and adults is discussed

Topics: Physiological ecology - Original Paper
Publisher: Springer-Verlag
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Provided by: PubMed Central
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