Foliage growth, mass- and area-based leaf nitrogen concentrations (Nm and Na) and specific leaf area (SLA) were surveyed during a complete vegetation cycle for two co-occurring savanna tree species: Crossopteryx febrifuga (Afzel. ex G. Don) Benth. and Cussonia arborea A. Rich. The study was conducted in the natural reserve of Lamto, Ivory Coast, on isolated and clumped trees. Leaf flush occurred before the beginning of the rainy season. Maximum leaf area index (LAI), computed on a projected canopy basis for individual trees, was similar (mean of about 4) for both species. Seasonal courses of the ratio of actual to maximum LAI were similar for individuals of the same species, but differed between species. For C. febrifuga, clumped trees reached their maximum LAI before isolated trees. The LAI of C. arborea trees did not differ between clumped and isolated individuals, but maximum LAI was reached about 2 months later than for C. febrifuga. Leaf fall was associated with decreasing soil water content for C. arborea. For C. febrifuga, leaf fall started before the end of the rainy period and was independent of changes in soil water content. These features lead to a partial niche separation in time for light resource acquisition between the two species. Although Nm, Na and SLA decreased with time, SLA and Na decreased later in the vegetation cycle for C. arborea than for C. febrifuga. For both species, Na decreased and SLA increased with decreasing leaf irradiance within the canopy, although effects of light on leaf characteristics did not differ between isolated and clumped trees. Given relationships between Na and photosynthetic capacities previously reported for these species, our results show that C. arborea exhibits higher photosynthetic capacity than C. febrifuga during most of the vegetation cycle and at all irradiances.
Keywords: Crossopteryx febrifuga; Cussonia arborea; LAI; Lamto; phenology; shading; SLA
Journal Article. 0 words.
Subjects: Plant Sciences and Forestry
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