Leaf characteristics of grassland in a microgradient of temperature and moisture conditions
Fliervoet, L. M.; van de Ven, J. P. M.
Soil moisture and temperature conditions change gradually along a grassland transect of 13 m through a dry grassland on a southerly exposed slope continuing in a fertilized grassland. From the slope site towards the fertilized grassland the vegetation shows an increase in above-ground phytomass and leaf area index (LAI); succulence and sclerophylly values of the vegetation decrease, and leaf area ratio (LAR) and leaf area development (LAD) increase with the highest values for the fertilized grassland. Leaf size composition of the vegetation changes too. Small, nanophyllous and microphyllous leaves are more common on the slope site while mesophyllous leaves are more frequent in the fertilized grassland. Leaf size, as well as succulence, sclerophylly and LAD of species vary in a wide range along the transect and there is a remarkable difference between forbs and grasses, rather independent of the environmental conditions (water and temperature). The reduction in leaf size towards the dry grassland on the slope is interpreted as a favourable feature under conditions of interruptedly poor water supply.