Leaf size and foraging for light in a sclerophyll woodland


*Author to whom correspondence should be addressed. E-mail: jbragg@unm.edu


  • 1It has been suggested that leaf size may represent a foraging scale, with smaller-leaved species exploiting and requiring higher resource concentrations that are available in smaller patches.
  • 2Among 26 shrub species from a sclerophyll woodland community in New South Wales, Australia, species with smaller leaves tended to occur in better light environments, after controlling for height. The dark respiration rates of small-leaved species tended to exceed those of larger-leaved species.
  • 3However, the higher-light environments where smaller-leaved species tended to occur had a patch scale larger than whole plants. There would not have been any foraging-scale impediment to large-leaved species occupying these higher-light patches. An alternative explanation for small-leaved species being more successful in higher-light patches, in this vegetation with moderate shading, might be that they were less prone to leaf overheating.
  • 4Such relationships of leaf size to light across species at a given height may be important contributors to the wide spread of leaf sizes among species within a vegetation type, along with patterns down the light profile of the canopy, and effects associated with architecture and ramification strategy.