The adaptive significance of leaf life spans has been examined from several different points of view. Evergreenness has been explained in terms of nutrient conservation (86), improving carbon balance (90), and as a general adaptation to environmental stress (47). In this review, we consider these theories and attempt to synthesize divergent viewpoints. We consider the question "How is the length of a leaPs life span related to environmental factors?" In particular, what are the comparative advantages of the everÂ green and deciduous habits and how can adaptive differences be related to distributional patterns and climatic gradients? LEAF LIFE CYCLES Leaf life span varies from a few weeks in ephemerals to as much as 25 years in Auracaria, a tropical conifer (85). In Welwitschia mirabilis the single leaf lives as long as the plant, reaches very large size and an age of at least decades, but life span of individual "segments" is much shorter (85, 126). Because of this wide variation in leaf life span, a classification of leaf life cycles is desirable. The terminology used by Bell & Bliss (7) is a useful starting point. Summergreen individuals retain leaves for most of the growing season, but for less
Annual Review of Ecology, Evolution, and Systematics – Annual Reviews
Published: Nov 1, 1982
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