Leaf traits show different relationships with shade tolerance in moist versus dry tropical forests

  • Poorter L
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Shade tolerance is the central paradigm for understanding forest succession and dynamics, but there is considerable debate as to what the salient features of shade tolerance are, whether adult leaves show similar shade adaptations to seedling leaves, and whether the same leaf adaptations are found in forests under different climatic control. Here, adult leaf and metamer traits were measured for 39 tree species from a tropical moist semi-evergreen forest (1580 mm rain yr22121) and 41 species from a dry deciduous forest (1160 mm yr22121) in Bolivia. Twenty-six functional traits were measured and related to species regeneration light requirements. Adult leaf traits were clearly associated with shade tolerance. Different, rather than stronger, shade adaptations were found for moist compared with dry forest species. Shade adaptations exclusively found in the evergreen moist forest were related to tough and persistent leaves, and shade adaptations in the dry deciduous forest were related to high light interception and water use. These results suggest that, for forests differing in rainfall seasonality, there is a shift in the relative importance of functional leaf traits and performance trade-offs that control light partitioning. In the moist evergreen forest leaf traits underlying the growth survival trade-off are important, whereas in the seasonally deciduous forest leaf traits underlying the growth trade-off between low and high light might become important. New Phytologist (2009) 181: 8902013900doi: 10.1111/j.1469-8137.2008.02715.x

Author-supplied keywords

  • Coexistence
  • Dry forest
  • Leaf traits
  • Light partitioning
  • Ontogeny
  • Shade tolerance
  • Specific leaf area
  • Tropical rain forest

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  • Lourens Poorter

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