Key Elements of Foliar Function

  • Kihachiro KikuzawaEmail author
  • Martin J. Lechowicz
Part of the Ecological Research Monographs book series (ECOLOGICAL)


Leaf longevity is an integral part of a quintet of highly intercorrelated and functionally interdependent traits that organize the function of leaves as photosynthetic organs: photosynthetic capacity, A max; leaf mass per unit area, LMA; foliar nitrogen content, N; and leaf dry matter content, LDMC (Wright et al. 2004; Shipley et al. 2006). Photosynthetic capacity, a direct measure of foliar function, is the natural focal element in the quintet. Leaf longevity, LMA, and foliar N initially drew attention as correlates of photosynthetic capacity and only later were recognized as part of a unified set of traits characterizing overall variation in leaf function: the “leaf economic spectrum” (Wright et al. 2004). Leaf dry matter content subsequently was identified as a little-studied trait that in fact underpinned the relationships among A max, LMA, foliar N, and leaf longevity (Shipley et al. 2006). Considering the innumerable characteristics of leaves, including some that figure in theories of leaf longevity, what makes these the cardinal traits central in defining trends in variation of leaf function? There are basically two reasons these five traits have primacy. First, all these characteristics bear on the costs of leaf construction and the photosynthetic functions that repay those costs over the life of the leaf. Second, these traits show a wider and ecologically more consistent range of interspecific variation than other characteristics of leaves.


Specific Leaf Area Photosynthetic Capacity Leaf Longevity Photosynthetic Function Leaf Economic Spectrum 
These keywords were added by machine and not by the authors. This process is experimental and the keywords may be updated as the learning algorithm improves.


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Copyright information

© Springer 2011

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Ishikawa Prefectural UniversityNonoichiJapan
  2. 2.Department of BiologyMcGill UniversityMontrealCanada

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