Tight coupling between leaf area index and foliage N content in arctic plant communities

M.T. van Wijk, M. Williams, G.R. Shaver

Research output: Contribution to journalArticleAcademicpeer-review

54 Citations (Scopus)


The large spatial heterogeneity of arctic landscapes complicates efforts to quantify key processes of these ecosystems, for example productivity, at the landscape level. Robust relationships that help to simplify and explain observed patterns, are thus powerful tools for understanding and predicting vegetation distribution and dynamics. Here we present the same linear relationship between Leaf area index (LAI) and Total foliar nitrogen (TFN), the two factors determining the photosynthetic capacity of vegetation, across a wide range of tundra vegetation types in both northern Sweden and Alaska between leaf area indices of 0 and 1 m(2) m(-2), which is essentially the entire range of leaf area index values for the Arctic as a whole. Surprisingly, this simple relationship arises as an emergent property at the plant community level, whereas at the species level a large variability in leaf traits exists. As the relationship between LAI and TFN exists among such varied ecosystems, the arctic environment must impose tight constraints on vegetation canopy development. This relationship simplifies the quantification of vegetation productivity of arctic vegetation types as the two most important drivers of productivity can be estimated reliably from remotely sensed NDVI images.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)421-427
Issue number3
Publication statusPublished - 2005


  • brooks-range-foothills
  • tundra ecosystems
  • northern alaska
  • tussock tundra
  • responses
  • biomass
  • productivity
  • toposequence
  • vegetation
  • landscape

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