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Global Patterns of Leaf Mechanical Properties
Ecology Letters
  • Yusuke Onoda, Macquarie University
  • Mark Westoby, Macquarie University
  • Peter B. Adler, Utah State University
  • Amy M.F. Choong
  • Fiona J. Clissold, University of Sydney
  • Johannes H.C. Cornelissen, VU University
  • Sandra Díaz, CONICET-Universidad Nacional de Córdoba
  • Nathaniel J. Dominy, Dartmouth College
  • Alison Elgart, Florida Gulf Coast University
  • Lucas Enrico, CONICET-Universidad Nacional de Córdoba
  • Paul V.A. Fine, Fine, University of California - Berkeley
  • Jerome J. Howard, University of New Orleans
  • Adel Jalili, Research Institute of Forests and Rangelands
  • Kaoru Kitajima, University of Florida
  • Hiroko Kurokawa, Tohoku University
  • Clare McArthur, University of Sydney
  • Peter W. Lucas, Kuwait University
  • Lars Markesteijn, Wageningen University
  • Natalia Pérez-Harguindeguy, CONICET-Universidad Nacional de Córdoba
  • Lourens Poorter, Wageningen University
  • Lora Richards, Macquarie University
  • Louis S. Santiago, University of California - Riverside
  • Enio E. Sosinski, Jr.
  • Sunshine A. Van Bael, Smithsonian Tropical Research Institute
  • David I. Warton, University of New South Wales
  • Ian J. Wright, Macquarie University
  • S. Joseph Wright, Smithsonian Tropical Research Institute
  • Nayuta Yamashita, University of Southern California
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Publication Date

Leaf mechanical properties strongly influence leaf lifespan, plant–herbivore interactions, litter decomposition and nutrient cycling, but global patterns in their interspecific variation and underlying mechanisms remain poorly understood. We synthesize data across the three major measurement methods, permitting the first global analyses of leaf mechanics and associated traits, for 2819 species from 90 sites worldwide. Key measures of leaf mechanical resistance varied c. 500–800-fold among species. Contrary to a long-standing hypothesis, tropical leaves were not mechanically more resistant than temperate leaves. Leaf mechanical resistance was modestly related to rainfall and local light environment. By partitioning leaf mechanical resistance into three different components we discovered that toughness per density contributed a surprisingly large fraction to variation in mechanical resistance, larger than the fractions contributed by lamina thickness and tissue density. Higher toughness per density was associated with long leaf lifespan especially in forest understory. Seldom appreciated in the past, toughness per density is a key factor in leaf mechanical resistance, which itself influences plant–animal interactions and ecosystem functions across the globe.


Originally published by Wiley-Blackwell. Publisher's PDF and HTML fulltext available through remote link.

Citation Information
Onoda, Y., Westoby, M., Adler, P. B., Choong, A. M. F., Clissold, F. J., Cornelissen, J. H. C., Díaz, S., et al. (2011). Global patterns of leaf mechanical properties. Ecology Letters, 14(3), 301-312. doi:10.1111/j.1461-0248.2010.01582.x