Global climatic drivers of leaf size

Ian J. Wright*, Ning Dong, Vincent Maire, I. Colin Prentice, Mark Westoby, Sandra Díaz, Rachael V. Gallagher, Bonnie F. Jacobs, Robert Kooyman, Elizabeth A. Law, Michelle R. Leishman, Ülo Niinemets, Peter B. Reich, Lawren Sack, Rafael Villar, Han Wang, Peter Wilf

*Corresponding author for this work

    Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

    582 Citations (Scopus)

    Abstract

    Leaf size varies by over a 100,000-fold among species worldwide. Although 19th-century plant geographers noted that the wet tropics harbor plants with exceptionally large leaves, the latitudinal gradient of leaf size has not been well quantified nor the key climatic drivers convincingly identified. Here, we characterize worldwide patterns in leaf size. Large-leaved species predominate in wet, hot, sunny environments; small-leaved species typify hot, sunny environments only in arid conditions; small leaves are also found in high latitudes and elevations. By modeling the balance of leaf energy inputs and outputs, we show that daytime and nighttime leaf-to-air temperature differences are key to geographic gradients in leaf size. This knowledge can enrich "next-generation" vegetation models in which leaf temperature and water use during photosynthesis play key roles.

    Original languageEnglish
    Pages (from-to)917-921
    Number of pages5
    JournalScience
    Volume357
    Issue number6354
    DOIs
    Publication statusPublished - 1 Sept 2017

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