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1.  Is leaf dry matter content a better predictor of soil fertility than specific leaf area? 
Annals of Botany  2011;108(7):1337-1345.
Background and Aims
Specific leaf area (SLA), a key element of the ‘worldwide leaf economics spectrum’, is the preferred ‘soft’ plant trait for assessing soil fertility. SLA is a function of leaf dry matter content (LDMC) and leaf thickness (LT). The first, LDMC, defines leaf construction costs and can be used instead of SLA. However, LT identifies shade at its lowest extreme and succulence at its highest, and is not related to soil fertility. Why then is SLA more frequently used as a predictor of soil fertility than LDMC?
Methods
SLA, LDMC and LT were measured and leaf density (LD) estimated for almost 2000 species, and the capacity of LD to predict LDMC was examined, as was the relative contribution of LDMC and LT to the expression of SLA. Subsequently, the relationships between SLA, LDMC and LT with respect to soil fertility and shade were described.
Key Results
Although LD is strongly related to LDMC, and LDMC and LT each contribute equally to the expression of SLA, the exact relationships differ between ecological groupings. LDMC predicts leaf nitrogen content and soil fertility but, because LT primarily varies with light intensity, SLA increases in response to both increased shade and increased fertility.
Conclusions
Gradients of soil fertility are frequently also gradients of biomass accumulation with reduced irradiance lower in the canopy. Therefore, SLA, which includes both fertility and shade components, may often discriminate better between communities or treatments than LDMC. However, LDMC should always be the preferred trait for assessing gradients of soil fertility uncoupled from shade. Nevertheless, because leaves multitask, individual leaf traits do not necessarily exhibit exact functional equivalence between species. In consequence, rather than using a single stand-alone predictor, multivariate analyses using several leaf traits is recommended.
doi:10.1093/aob/mcr225
PMCID: PMC3197453  PMID: 21948627
Ellenberg numbers; functional traits; leaf density; leaf nitrogen; leaf size; leaf thickness; relative growth rate (RGR); shade tolerance; variation in trait expression
2.  Stomatal vs. genome size in angiosperms: the somatic tail wagging the genomic dog? 
Annals of Botany  2010;105(4):573-584.
Background and Aims
Genome size is a function, and the product, of cell volume. As such it is contingent on ecological circumstance. The nature of ‘this ecological circumstance’ is, however, hotly debated. Here, we investigate for angiosperms whether stomatal size may be this ‘missing link’: the primary determinant of genome size. Stomata are crucial for photosynthesis and their size affects functional efficiency.
Methods
Stomatal and leaf characteristics were measured for 1442 species from Argentina, Iran, Spain and the UK and, using PCA, some emergent ecological and taxonomic patterns identified. Subsequently, an assessment of the relationship between genome-size values obtained from the Plant DNA C-values database and measurements of stomatal size was carried out.
Key Results
Stomatal size is an ecologically important attribute. It varies with life-history (woody species < herbaceous species < vernal geophytes) and contributes to ecologically and physiologically important axes of leaf specialization. Moreover, it is positively correlated with genome size across a wide range of major taxa.
Conclusions
Stomatal size predicts genome size within angiosperms. Correlation is not, however, proof of causality and here our interpretation is hampered by unexpected deficiencies in the scientific literature. Firstly, there are discrepancies between our own observations and established ideas about the ecological significance of stomatal size; very large stomata, theoretically facilitating photosynthesis in deep shade, were, in this study (and in other studies), primarily associated with vernal geophytes of unshaded habitats. Secondly, the lower size limit at which stomata can function efficiently, and the ecological circumstances under which these minute stomata might occur, have not been satisfactorally resolved. Thus, our hypothesis, that the optimization of stomatal size for functional efficiency is a major ecological determinant of genome size, remains unproven.
doi:10.1093/aob/mcq011
PMCID: PMC2850795  PMID: 20375204
Stomatal size; genome size; seed size; life history; photosynthesis; allometry; ecology; evolution; SLA; leaf structure; CAM; C4

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