University of Tasmania
135951 - Does the law of diminishing returns in leaf scaling apply to vines.pdf (2.13 MB)

Does the law of diminishing returns in leaf scaling apply to vines? - Evidence from 12 species of climbing plants

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journal contribution
posted on 2023-05-20, 08:29 authored by Shi, P, Li, Y, Hui, C, David RatkowskyDavid Ratkowsky, Yu, X, Niinemets, U
Shapes, sizes and biomass investment per unit area (LMA) of vine leaves are characterized by high diversity that results in variation in leaf arrangement, light harvesting efficiency and photosynthetic activity. There exists a scaling relationship between leaf dry mass and surface area for many broad-leaved plants, and most estimates of the scaling exponent are greater than unity, implying that they follow the “law of diminishing returns”, i.e. that larger leaves require progressively greater investments of dry mass and accordingly have a greater LMA. Previous studies have primarily focused on trees and crops and there are few data available for vines. Yet, as vines have lower support investments in stems than self-supporting plants, they can have larger biomass investments in support within the leaves and stronger rise of biomass costs with increasing leaf area. In this study, we chose twelve species of vines (five woody vines and seven herbaceous vines) to investigate the following scientific questions: (i) whether there are significant differences in LMA between woody and herbaceous vines, (ii) whether leaf dry mass and surface area scaling relationships show evidence of diminishing returns in vines.We observed that LMA values of woody vines were significantly higher than those of the herbaceous vines. Leaf dry mass vs. surface area scaling relationship followed the law of diminishing returns in all 12 studied vine species. The existence of diminishing returns indicates that there is a trade-off between leaf surface area expansion and the energy investment for vines to support leaf physical structures.


Publication title

Global Ecology and Conservation



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Tasmanian Institute of Agriculture (TIA)


Elsevier BV

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© 2019 The Authors. Published by Elsevier B.V. Licensed under Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 International (CC BY 4.0)

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Expanding knowledge in the biological sciences