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Protocols in ecological and environmental plant physiology

 

Article << Previous     |     Next >>   Contents Vol 61(5)

Leaf traits of Eucalyptus arenacea (Myrtaceae) as indicators of edge effects in temperate woodlands of south-eastern Australia

Thomas E. Wright A B D E , Sabine Kasel C , Michael Tausz A and Lauren T. Bennett A

A Department of Forest and Ecosystem Science, Melbourne School of Land and Environment, The University of Melbourne, Water Street, Creswick, Vic. 3363, Australia.
B CRC for Forestry, The University of Melbourne, Water Street, Creswick, Vic. 3363, Australia.
C Department of Forest and Ecosystem Science, Melbourne School of Land and Environment, The University of Melbourne, 500 Yarra Boulevard, Richmond, Vic. 3121, Australia.
D Present address: AECOM, Level 45, 80 Collins Street, Melbourne, Vic. 3000, Australia.
E Corresponding author. Email: thomas.wright@aecom.com

Australian Journal of Botany 61(5) 365-375 http://dx.doi.org/10.1071/BT13061
Submitted: 6 March 2013  Accepted: 3 June 2013   Published: 25 July 2013


 
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Abstract

Despite recent trends in using plant functional traits to describe ecosystem responses to environmental change, few studies have examined the capacity of traits to represent environmental variation for individual species at small spatial scales, such as across forest edges. We examined the utility of 12 easy-to-measure leaf traits (fresh weight to dry weight ratio, specific leaf area (SLA), osmolality, δ13C, δ15N, and concentrations of key nutrients) to detect edge effects on the function of a dominant woodland tree, Eucalyptus arenacea Marginson & Ladiges. The study included replicate E. arenacea trees at the woodland edge (0 m) and interior (75 m from edge) of three woodlands adjoined by pasture and three woodlands adjoined by plantation established on pasture. Leaf traits proved useful in identifying potentially degrading processes at woodland edges. Notably, greater leaf P concentrations and δ15N in edge than interior trees irrespective of edge type (pasture versus plantation) indicated persistent effects of nutrient enrichment from agricultural practices; and leaf osmolality and Na concentrations indicated greatest exposure of woodland trees to salinity at pasture edges. Nonetheless, leaf traits proved less useful in detecting edge effects on tree physiology, with most traits being non-responsive to a pronounced interactive effect of edge type and distance from edge on physiological measures. In addition, negative correlations between SLA and physiological measures of tree productivity were contrary to global relationships. Overall, we found that although particular leaf traits indicated potentially degrading processes of nutrient enrichment and salinisation, they were not reliable indicators of small-scale edge effects on the physiological function of E. arenacea.

Additional keywords: Eucalyptus globulus, fragmentation, land use, plantation.


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