• carbon isotope discrimination;
  • clonal diversity;
  • leaf traits;
  • open field trial;
  • poplar (Populus);
  • productivity;
  • specific leaf area (SLA);
  • water-use efficiency


  • • 
    Here we tested whether some leaf traits could be used as predictors for productivity in a range of Populus deltoides × P. nigra clones. These traits were assessed in 3-yr-old rooted cuttings from 29 clones growing in an open field trial, in a five randomized complete block design, under optimal irrigation.
  • Variables were assigned to four groups describing productivity (above-ground biomass, total leaf area), leaf growth (total number of leaves increment rate), leaf structure (area of the largest leaf, specific leaf area, carbon and nitrogen contents), and carbon isotope discrimination in the leaves (Δ).
  • • 
    High-yielding clones displayed larger total leaf area and individual leaf area, while no correlation could be detected between productivity and either leaf structure or Δ. By contrast, Δ was negatively correlated with number of leaves increment rate and leaf N content.
  • Our study shows that there is a potential to improve water-use efficiency in poplar without necessarily reducing the overall productivity.