100 Influential Papers - page 26

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Wright, I.J., Reich, P.B. & Westoby, M. (2001)
Strategy shifts in leaf physiology, structure and nutrient content between species of
high- and low-rainfall and high- and low-nutrient habitats.
Functional Ecology, 15, 423-434.
The bulk of leaf trait adaptation in natural communities has yet to be quantified or understood. What we do know owes
a great deal to this paper, which focused on how and why leaf structure and physiology varied across four contrasting
Australian communities (high vs low rainfall, with high vs low nutrient supply). This paper presented key discoveries in
ecophysiology. For example, this paper showed that higher N and P concentrations in leaves of drier sites enabled a high
photosynthetic rate for a given stomatal conductance, and pointed to the current foci of ecological drought tolerance
research: the physiological ability to maintain carbon balance, and the reduction of hydraulic demand to match a lower
water supply. Second, this paper was fundamental in the field of ‘leaf economics’, i.e., the inter-relationships of leaf
structure, composition and physiology, which emerged in the 1970s, and reached a crescendo with the powerful global
biome comparisons in the late 1990s and early 2000s. For the specialist, this paper is of particular value, simultaneously
addressing a large number of hypotheses for how physiological and structural traits should co-vary among diverse species
within and across communities, providing a template for new research on the ecophysiological basis of species coexistence.
Lawren Sack
S ECT I ON F I VE
PHYS I OLOG I CA L ECOLOGY
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