Leaf attributes in the seasonally dry tropics: a comparison of four habitats in northern Australia

Authors

  • L. D. Prior,

    Corresponding author
    1. School of Science, Northern Territory University, Darwin, NT 0909,
    2. Key Centre for Tropical Wildlife Management, Northern Territory University, Darwin, Northern Territory 0909, Australia
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  • D. Eamus,

    1. Institute for Water & Environmental Resource Management, University of Technology, Sydney, NSW 2007, and
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  • D. M. J. S. Bowman

    1. Key Centre for Tropical Wildlife Management, Northern Territory University, Darwin, Northern Territory 0909, Australia
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†Author to whom correspondence should be addressed. E-mail: lynda.prior@ntu.edu.au

Summary

  • 1Patterns of leaf attributes were compared at regional and global scales in relation to the seasonal availability of water.
  • 2Light-saturated assimilation rate (Amass), leaf mass per area (LMA), leaf density, thickness, life span, saturated water content, chlorophyll, nitrogen and phosphorus content were determined during the wet season for 21 tree species in four contrasting habitats in northern Australia. Rainfall in this area is extremely seasonal.
  • 3Amass and foliar chlorophyll, N and P contents were positively correlated with each other, and were all negatively correlated with LMA, leaf thickness, density and life span.
  • 4Deciduous species had smaller LMA and leaf life span, and larger foliar N and P contents than did evergreen species.
  • 5The eight Myrtaceous species had smaller Amass, foliar chlorophyll, N and P contents, and larger LMA, leaf thickness and leaf life span than did the non-Myrtaceous species.
  • 6Leaves from the closed canopy dry monsoon forest had significantly larger Amass, chlorophyll and P contents than did leaves from the three open canopy habitats (eucalypt open forest, mixed woodland and Melaleuca swamp). This reflected the relatively low proportions of evergreen and Myrtaceous species in the dry monsoon forest. There were also significant intraspecific differences among habitats.
  • 7Leaf thickness, density and LMA were lower than predicted from globally derived relationships with temperature and precipitation. Tropical seasonally dry biomes are under-represented in such global analyses.

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