Light-dependent leaf trait variation in 43 tropical dry forest tree species

L. Markesteijn, L. Poorter, F.J.J.M. Bongers

Research output: Contribution to journalArticleAcademicpeer-review

104 Citations (Scopus)


Our understanding of leaf acclimation in relation to irradiance of fully grown or juvenile trees is mainly based on research involving tropical wet forest species. We studied sun¿shade plasticity of 24 leaf traits of 43 tree species in a Bolivian dry deciduous forest. Sampling was confined to small trees. For each species, leaves were taken from five of the most and five of the least illuminated crowns. Trees were selected based on the percentage of the hemisphere uncovered by other crowns. We examined leaf trait variation and the relation between trait plasticity and light demand, maximum adult stature, and ntogenetic changes in crown exposure of the species. Leaf trait variation was mainly related to differences among species and to a minor extent to differences in light availability. Traits related to the palisade layer, thickness of the outer cell wall, and Narea and Parea had the greatest plasticity, suggesting their importance for leaf function in different light environments. Short-lived pioneers had the highest trait plasticity. Overall plasticity was modest and rarely associated with juvenile light requirements, adult stature, or ontogenetic changes in crown exposure. Dry forest tree species had a lower light-related plasticity than wet forest species, probably because wet forests cast deeper shade. In dry forests light availability may be less limiting, and low water availability may constrain leaf trait plasticity in response to irradiance. Key words: Bolivia; crown exposure; leaf traits; light acclimation; plasticity; tropical dry deciduous forest.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)515-525
JournalAmerican Journal of Botany
Issue number4
Publication statusPublished - 2007


  • rain-forest
  • relative importance
  • alocasia-macrorrhiza
  • trade-offs
  • life-span
  • shade
  • acclimation
  • irradiance
  • anatomy
  • plants


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