Leaf area ratio and net assimilation rate of 24 wild species differing in relative growth rate
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- Poorter, H. & Remkes, C. Oecologia (1990) 83: 553. doi:10.1007/BF00317209
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Which factors cause fast-growing plant species to achieve a higher relative growth rate than slow-growing ones? To answer this question 24 wild species were grown from seed in a growth chamber under conditions of optimal nutrient supply and a growth analysis was carried out. Mean relative growth rate, corrected for possible ontogenetic drift, ranged from 113 to 356 mg g−1 day−1. Net assimilation rate, the increase in plant dry weight per unit leaf area and unit time, varied two-fold between species but no correlation with relative growth rate was found. The correlation between leaf area ratio, the ratio between total leaf area and total plant weight, and relative growth rate was very high. This positive correlation was mainly due to the specific leaf area, the ratio between leaf area and leaf weight, and to a lesser extent caused by the leaf weight ratio, the fraction of plant biomass allocated to the leaves. Differences in relative growth rate under conditions of optimum nutrient supply were correlated with the soil fertility in the natural habitat of these species. It is postulated that natural selection in a nutrient-rich environment has favoured species with a high specific leaf area and a high leaf weight ratio, and consequently a high leaf area ratio, whereas selection in nutrient-poor habitats has led to species with an inherently low specific leaf area and a higher fraction of root mass, and thus a low leaf area ratio.