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Environmental and developmental controls on specific leaf area are little modified by leaf allometry

Authors

  • R. Milla,

    Corresponding author
    1. Department of Forest Resources, University of Minnesota, 1530 Cleveland Avenue North, St. Paul, MN 55108, USA;
      *Correspondence author. Área de Biodiversidad y Conservación, Universidad Rey Juan Carlos, c/Tulipán s/n., E-28933 Móstoles, Madrid, Spain. E-mail: ruben.milla@gmail.com
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  • P. B. Reich,

    1. Department of Forest Resources, University of Minnesota, 1530 Cleveland Avenue North, St. Paul, MN 55108, USA;
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  • Ü. Niinemets,

    1. Institute of Agricultural and Environmental Sciences, Estonian University of Life Sciences, Kreutzwaldi 1, Tartu 51014, Estonia; and
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  • P. Castro-Díez

    1. Departamento de Ecología, Facultad de Ciencias, Universidad de Alcalá. E-28871 Alcalá de Henares, Madrid, Spain
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*Correspondence author. Área de Biodiversidad y Conservación, Universidad Rey Juan Carlos, c/Tulipán s/n., E-28933 Móstoles, Madrid, Spain. E-mail: ruben.milla@gmail.com

Summary

  • 1Recent work shows that large leaves tend to require higher biomass investments per unit leaf area than small leaves. As a consequence, specific leaf area (SLA), which is a focus trait for a bulk of physiological and ecological research programs, is dependent on leaf size variation. Here, we address whether size dependency alters the outcome of research dealing with SLA responses to environmental or developmental change.
  • 2We compiled lamina mass (M) and surface area (A) data for 2158 leaves of 26 species, coming from studies investigating the reaction of SLA to variation in rainfall, growth–season length, light intensity, atmospheric CO2, fire frequency, type of branch and leaf and plant age. We fitted the function M = a Ab to the data of each experimental situation separately, and implemented a method to split SLA response as measured in the original study (SLADm) into response due to leaf size dependency (SLADa), and response due to treatment effects, after controlling for leaf size dependency (SLADt).
  • 3The sign of the reaction did not differ between SLADm and SLADt. However, the magnitude of that response changed for most contrasts, though in variable ways.
  • 4Conclusions of past experiments hold, for the most part, after re-analysis including size dependency. However, given the large heterogeneity found here, we advise that future work investigating SLA be prepared to account for leaf size dependency when the factors under focus are suspected to alter leaf size.

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