, Volume 32, Issue 6, pp 1621–1631 | Cite as

Spatial variation in specific leaf area and horizontal distribution of leaf area in juvenile western larch (Larix occidentalis Nutt.)

  • G. M. WilliamsEmail author
  • A. S. Nelson
Original Article


Key message

Models were developed to predict spatial distribution of specific leaf area (SLA) and horizontal distribution of leaf area for western larch. Cardinal branch direction significantly influenced both SLA and horizontal leaf area distributions.


Leaf area, specific leaf area (SLA), and their spatial distribution in the crown are important indicators of biological response to changes in growing conditions including light and water availability. Western larch (Larix occidentalis Nutt.) is a deciduous coniferous pioneer species in the U.S. Inland Northwest known for its rapid growth, high-quality wood, and ecological importance. Analysis with nonlinear models revealed that SLA and horizontal leaf area distributions differ between cardinal quadrants of juvenile western larch crowns. SLA was significantly higher in the more illuminated, southern side of the crown, and leaf area peaked closer to the stem in the southwest quadrant. Similar to other conifers, horizontal distributions of foliage in western larch also shifted further outward towards the branch tips with increasing depth in the crown. Models developed for horizontal distribution of leaf area and spatial distribution of specific leaf area for western larch may be extended by future researchers to predict its response to environmental variables or management practices.


Biomass Shade intolerance Probability density function Nonlinear mixed-effects model Inland Northwest Leaf economics Morphological plasticity 



This study was funded by the University of Idaho, College of Natural Resources and the National Institute of Food and Agriculture, U.S. Department of Agriculture, McIntire Stennis project under accession number 1008381. Jacob Reely, Jonathan Cherico, and Michael Skandalis contributed to data collection. We also acknowledge Mark Coleman and Randall Brooks for their helpful critiques of the original manuscript, and Daniel Johnson for insights into stomatal response among western conifers.

Compliance with ethical standards

Conflict of interest

The authors declare that they have no conflict of interest.

Supplementary material

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Copyright information

© Springer-Verlag GmbH Germany, part of Springer Nature 2018

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Department of Forest, Rangeland and Fire ScienceUniversity of IdahoMoscowUSA
  2. 2.Hardwood Tree Improvement and Regeneration Center, Department of Forestry and Natural ResourcesPurdue UniversityWest LafayetteUSA

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