Functional Leaf Trait Variations in Seasonally Dry Tropical Forest Ecosystems at Gurgaon, Northern India

Vikram Singh, Sharda R. Gupta, Narender Singh


This paper reports on a study of leaf phenology of trees, and variation in functional traits of leaves in tree and shrub species from three protected forests in the tropical dry deciduous forest region of Gurgaon district in northern India. The study area has a semiarid, tropical climate and the soil is old alluvium /sandy loam. The forests are dominated by Ailanthus excelsa and Cassia fistula (AE-CF) at Bhondsi, Acacia leucophloea and Balanites aegyptiaca (AL-BA) at Gawalpahari and Anogeissus pendula and Acacia leucophloea (AP-AL) at Raisina. The tree density was 492.5 to 642.5 trees ha-1 with a total basal area of 14.62 to 23.54 m2 ha-1. The leaf traits of trees and understorey shrubs varied in relation to microtopography and the vegetation composition of the three forests. There was significant effect of tree species on leaf area, leaf weight, specific leaf area and nitrogen content in the three forests (P≤ 0.05). The weight of leaves ranged from 0.050 to 2.701g across forest types. The specific leaf area (SLA, fresh leaf area/dry mass) was: 14.312 to 231.9 cm2 g-1 in AE-CF forest; 13.431 to 181.65 cm2 g-1 in AL-BA forest and 8.529 to 119.30 cm2 g-1 in AP- AL forest. The variability in SLA was 1.88 to 3.12 fold among the tree species, and 2.11 to 5.51 fold among the shrub species. Leaf weight and leaf area in the case of both tree and shrub species were significantly correlated (R2= 0.825 to 0.992). The variation in leaf attributes of the tree and understorey shrubs across forest types could be explained on the basis of differences in microtopography, soil water availability, and soil fertility.  The variations in  leaf phenology and leaf traits in the studied forests could play an important role in diversifying internal resource utilization and ecosystem functioning under highly seasonal climate.


Trees; Shrubs; Leaf Phenology; Leaf Area; Leaf Weight; Specific Leaf Area (SLA).


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