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Relative growth rate in phylogenetically related deciduous and evergreen woody species

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Relative growth rate (RGR) and other growth parameters were studied in eight pairs of closely related deciduous and evergreen species (within the same genus or family). The main objective of this study was to test the association between leaf turnover rate and RGR, specific leaf area (SLA, leaf area/leaf dry weight) and other growth variables. Plants were grown for 6 months in a greenhouse under favourable water and nutrient conditions. Variation in RGR among the 16 woody species was due mainly to differences in morphological parameters such as leaf area ratio (LAR, whole plant area/whole plant dry weight) and SLA). However, temporal variation in RGR within species was due mainly to variation in net assimilation rate. When phylogeny was not taken into account, analyses showed that deciduous species grew faster than evergreens. In contrast, when phylogeny was taken into account, the data analysis showed that a faster RGR is not consistently associated with the deciduous habit (in five pairs it was, but in the other three it was not). The faster growth of the deciduous trees (in the five positive contrasts) could be explained by their higher LAR and higher SLA relative to evergreens. The lack of differences in RGR between deciduous and evergreens (in three pairs) was due to the higher leaf mass ratio (LMR, leaf dry biomass/total dry biomass) for the evergreens, which offset the higher SLA of the deciduous species, resulting in a similar LAR in both functional groups (LAR=LMR×SLA). Deciduous species had consistently higher SLA than evergreens. We suggest that SLA, more than RGR, could be an important parameter in determining adaptive advantages of deciduous and evergreen species.

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Antúnez, I., Retamosa, E. & Villar, R. Relative growth rate in phylogenetically related deciduous and evergreen woody species. Oecologia 128, 172–180 (2001). https://doi.org/10.1007/s004420100645

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  • Biomass allocation
  • Leaf longevity
  • RGR
  • SLA
  • Specific leaf area