Evolutionarily Stable Leaf Area Production in Plant Populations

Research output: Contribution to journalArticleAcademicpeer-review

55 Citations (Scopus)


Using an analytical model, it was shown that for a given amount of nitrogen in the canopy of a stand (N-T), there exists an evolutionarily stable leaf area index (ES-LAI), and therefore an evolutionarily stable average leaf nitrogen content (n(anu)(ES); n(anu)(ES) = N-T/ES - LAI), at which no individual plant in the stand can increase its photosynthesis by changing its leaf area. It was also shown that this ES-LAI is always greater than the optimal LAI that maximizes photosynthesis per unit N-T of the stand. This illustrates that the canopy structure that maximizes photosynthesis of a population is not the same as the canopy structure that maximizes photosynthesis of individuals within a population. It was further derived that the ES-LAI at given N-T increases with the ratio between the light-saturated photosynthesis and the N content per unit leaf area (leaf-PPNUE) and that it decreases with the canopy extinction coefficient for light (K-L), the light availability and the apparent quantum yield (Phi). These. hypotheses were tested by comparing calculated ES-LAI and n(anu)(ES) values to actual LAIs and leaf N contents measured for stands of a large variety of herbaceous plants. There was a close correspondence between the calculated and measured values. As predicted by the model, plants with high leaf-PPNUEs produced more leaf area per unit nitrogen than those with low leaf-PPNUEs while plants with horizontal leaves, forming stands with higher K-L values, produced less leaf area than those with more vertically inclined leaves. These results suggest that maximization of individual plant photosynthesis per unit of nitrogen plays an important role in determining,leaf area production of plants and the resulting canopy structure of stands of vegetation. They further suggest this optimization to be a mechanism by which leaf traits such as leaf-PPNUE and leaf inclination angle are causally related to structural characteristics of the population, i.e. the leaf area index of the stand. (C) 2002 Elsevier Science Ltd. All rights reserved.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)15-32
JournalJournal of Theoretical Biology
Publication statusPublished - Jul 2002


  • nitrogen-use efficiency
  • photosynthetic carbon gain
  • canopy photosynthesis
  • leaves
  • light
  • stands
  • c-3
  • individuals
  • competition
  • patterns


Dive into the research topics of 'Evolutionarily Stable Leaf Area Production in Plant Populations'. Together they form a unique fingerprint.

Cite this