Functional correlates of leaf demographic response to gap release in saplings of a shade-tolerant tree, Elateriospermum tapos
Leaf dynamics of eight tropical rain forest species seedlings was studied in three environments: the shaded forest understorey, a small gap of ±50 m2, and a large gap of ±500 m2. Leaf production rate and leaf loss rate were enhanced in gaps, and a large gap resulted in larger increases than a small gap. For most species net leaf gain rate was larger in gaps, although this rate was not always largest in the large gap. Leaf loss decreased, and leaf survival percentages increased with increasing shade tolerance of species, indicating a slower leaf turnover for more shade tolerant species. Leaf area growth rate was only partly determined by net leaf gain rate. Ontogenetic effects on leaf size were also important, especially in the large gap. Species which possessed leaves with high specific leaf weight (SLW) showed lower leaf loss rates and higher leaf survival percentages than species with low SLW leaves. Leaf life span seemed to be related to leafcost per unit area. The relation of specific patterns in leaf production and leaf loss to the regeneration mode of the species is briefly discussed.