Canopy structure

  • John M. Norman
  • Gaylon S. Campbell

Abstract

Descriptions of canopy structure are essential to achieving an understanding of plant processes because of the profound influence that structure has on plant-environment interactions. The vegetation architecture not only affects exchanges of mass and energy between the plant and its environment, but it also may reveal a strategy of the plant for dealing with long-lasting evolutionary processes, such as adaptation to physical, chemical or biotic factors, by reflecting the organism’s vital activity or peculiarities in growth and development. Plant morphological studies, which are mostly qualitative, have long recognized this fact. Unfortunately quantitative descriptions of geometric features of canopies, plants or individual organs are difficult because canopies are spatially and temporally variable. The level of complexity is ever increasing as we proceed from individual organs to plants to pure stands to heterogeneous plant communities, since each higher level contains elements of the lower levels. For example, Sitka spruce needles are organized along a twig with a determined orientation distribution that varies with depth in the canopy; these shoots are organized into branches in a way that reflects developmental strategy, environmental stimulation and growth restrictions (Norman and Jarvis, 1974); these branches are organized along a stem to reveal a tree and of course trees are distributed throughout a forest. The elegance of this structure challenges the imagination to its limits. Although this elegance may teach us humility, it quickly overwhelms our quantitative aspirations so we must resort to the expediency of statistics for quantitative relations.

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Copyright information

© Kluwer Academic Publishers 2000

Authors and Affiliations

  • John M. Norman
  • Gaylon S. Campbell

There are no affiliations available

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