Specific leaf area and leaf area index in developing stands of Fagus sylvatica L. and Picea abies Karst

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Konopka, Bohdan ; Pajtik, Jozef ; Marusak, Robert ; Bosela, Michal ; Lukac, Martin (2016)

European beech (Fagus sylvatica L.) and Norway spruce (Picea abies Karst.) are two of the most ecologically and economically important forest tree species in Europe. These two species co-occur in many locations in Europe, leading to direct competition for canopy space. Foliage characteristics of two naturally regenerated pure stands of beech and spruce with fully closed canopies were contrasted to assess the dynamic relationship between foliage adaptability to shading, stand LAI and tree growth. We found that individual leaf size is far more conservative in spruce than in beech. Individual leaf and needle area was larger at the top than at the bottom of the canopy in both species. Inverse relationship was found for specific leaf area (SLA), highest SLA values were found at lowest light availability under the canopy. There was no difference in leaf area index (LAI) between the two stands, however LAI increased from 10.8 to 14.6 m2m-2 between 2009 and 2011. Dominant trees of both species were more efficient in converting foliage mass or area to produce stem biomass, although this relationship changed with age and was species-specific. Overall, we found larger foliage plasticity in beech than in spruce in relation to light conditions, indicating larger capacity to exploit niche openings.
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