Oecologia

, Volume 132, Issue 1, pp 12–20

The relationship between tree height and leaf area: sapwood area ratio

  •  N. McDowell
  •  H. Barnard
  •  B. Bond
  •  T. Hinckley
  •  R. Hubbard
  •  H. Ishii
  •  B. Köstner
  •  F. Magnani
  •  J. Marshall
  •  F. Meinzer
  •  N. Phillips
  •  M. Ryan
  •  D. Whitehead
Ecophysiology

DOI: 10.1007/s00442-002-0904-x

Cite this article as:
McDowell, N., Barnard, H., Bond, B. et al. Oecologia (2002) 132: 12. doi:10.1007/s00442-002-0904-x

Abstract.

The leaf area to sapwood area ratio (Al:As) of trees has been hypothesized to decrease as trees become older and taller. Theory suggests that Al:As must decrease to maintain leaf-specific hydraulic sufficiency as path length, gravity, and tortuosity constrain whole-plant hydraulic conductance. We tested the hypothesis that Al:As declines with tree height. Whole-tree Al:As was measured on 15 individuals of Douglas-fir (Pseudotsuga menziesii var. menziesii) ranging in height from 13 to 62 m (aged 20–450 years). Al:As declined substantially as height increased (P=0.02). Our test of the hypothesis that Al:As declines with tree height was extended using a combination of original and published data on nine species across a range of maximum heights and climates. Meta-analysis of 13 whole-tree studies revealed a consistent and significant reduction in Al:As with increasing height (P<0.05). However, two species (Picea abies and Abies balsamea) exhibited an increase in Al:As with height, although the reason for this is not clear. The slope of the relationship between Al:As and tree height (ΔAl:Ash) was unrelated to mean annual precipitation. Maximum potential height was positively correlated with ΔAl:Ash. The decrease in Al:As with increasing tree size that we observed in the majority of species may be a homeostatic mechanism that partially compensates for decreased hydraulic conductance as trees grow in height.

Hydraulic architecture Hydraulic limitation Leaf area: sapwood area Old trees

Copyright information

© Springer-Verlag 2002

Authors and Affiliations

  •  N. McDowell
    • 1
  •  H. Barnard
    • 2
  •  B. Bond
    • 1
  •  T. Hinckley
    • 3
  •  R. Hubbard
    • 2
  •  H. Ishii
    • 3
  •  B. Köstner
    • 5
  •  F. Magnani
    • 8
  •  J. Marshall
    • 7
  •  F. Meinzer
    • 6
  •  N. Phillips
    • 1
  •  M. Ryan
    • 2
  •  D. Whitehead
    • 9
  1. 1.Department of Forest Science, Oregon State University, Corvallis, OR 97331, USA
  2. 2.Department of Forest Sciences and Graduate Degree Program in Ecology, Colorado State University, Fort Collins, CO 80523, USA
  3. 3.College of Forest Resources, University of Washington, Seattle, WA 98195–2100, USA
  4. 4.USDA Forest Service, Rocky Mountain Research, 240 West Prospect Rd., Fort Collins, CO, 80526-2098, USA
  5. 5.TU Dresden, IHM-Meteorologie, Pienner Str. 9, D-01737 Tharandt, Germany
  6. 6.USDA Forest Service, Forestry Sciences Laboratory, 3200 SW Jefferson Way, Corvallis, OR 97331, USA
  7. 7.Department of Forest Resources, University of Idaho, Moscow, ID 83844, USA
  8. 8.CNR-IMGPF, via A. Vannucci 13, 50134 Firenze, Italy
  9. 9.Landcare Research, PO Box 69, Lincoln 8152, New Zealand
  10. 10.Present address: Biosphere Dynamics Research Group, Institute for Low Temperature Science, Hokkaido University, Sapporo 060–0819, Japan
  11. 11.Present address: Boston University, Geography Department, 675 Commonwealth Avenue, Boston, MA 02215, USA