It's good to have a shady side: Sun and shade leaves play different roles in tree canopies

Mar 31, 2011

'Outer' tree canopy leaves influence the sunlight reaching inner canopy leaves by changing their shape, says a new study.

The shape and physiology of leaves within the tree canopy is not constant, and can vary depending on their position within the tree crown. This phenomenon is expected to have important consequences for how trees cope with stress and use resources.

A new study describes how the leaves in the outer canopy of olive can influence the light environment within the canopy by changing their shape, as more elongated leaves resulted in higher levels of solar radiation inside the crown.

Author Rafael Rubio de Casas and colleagues observed that inner canopy leaves appear to be particularly adapted to the use of diffuse solar radiation, which is more constant than direct radiation. They propose that outer canopy leaves change not only to maximize their own performance, but also to create a beneficial environment for the inner canopy leaves. They also suggest that leaves in various positions of the canopy can use different types of solar radiation for and operate at different time windows. Exposed leaves are expected to use direct and be more active when the sun is close to the horizon, while shaded leaves specialize in the capture of diffuse radiation and are more active when the sun is higher.

De Casas and colleagues feel that their work shows a novel and heretofore unexplored integrated function of leaves that could have substantial ecological importance.

Explore further: Fish found in suspected tsunami debris boat quarantined

More information: Rubio de Casas, R. (2011). "Sun and shade leaves of Olea Europaea respond differently to plant size, light availability and genetic variation." Functional Ecology. onlinelibrary.wiley.com/doi/10.1111/j.1365-2435.2011.01851.x/abstract

Related Stories

Going out on a (redwood tree) limb

Jun 28, 2010

How tall can a tree grow? Does sunlight or water limit the size and photosynthetic capacity of a leaf? Could constraints on leaf growth really determine the height of a tree? These are all questions that ...

Protecting wine grapes from heat and drought

Feb 17, 2009

Deficit irrigation is an agricultural technique used to achieve a variety of results depending on the crop. For white wine grapes, it balances the crop load by limiting the canopy size so there aren't too ...

Spring cold snap helps with stream ecosystem research

Jul 23, 2009

A rare April freeze in 2007 provided researchers at the Department of Energy's Oak Ridge National Laboratory with further evidence that climate change could have negative effects on stream and forest ecosystems.

Recommended for you

Fish found in suspected tsunami debris boat quarantined

15 hours ago

The wreckage of a fishing boat that appears to be debris from the 2011 Japanese tsunami was carrying some unexpected passengers—fish from Japanese waters—when it was spotted off the Oregon coast.

Roadkill hot spots identified in California

21 hours ago

An interactive map shows how California's state highway system is strewn with roadkill "hot spots," which are identified in a newly released report by the Road Ecology Center at the University of California, Da ...

Tagging and scanning for feral pigs

23 hours ago

Innovative research using GPS tracking and thermal imagery is being used in an attempt to manage the destructive behaviour of feral pigs in the south-west.

Mexico boosts protection of near-extinct porpoise

Apr 17, 2015

Mexico is greatly expanding a protected area of the Gulf of California and boosting navy patrols in an effort to save the vaquita marina, a small porpoise facing imminent extinction.

User comments : 1

Adjust slider to filter visible comments by rank

Display comments: newest first

StillWind
1 / 5 (1) Mar 31, 2011
It's hard to believe that these guys just discovered that different parts of the tree do different jobs.
But then, I guess it's not "discovered" until some "researcher" writes a paper on it.

Please sign in to add a comment. Registration is free, and takes less than a minute. Read more

Click here to reset your password.
Sign in to get notified via email when new comments are made.