Leaf traits of Eucalyptus arenacea (Myrtaceae) as indicators of edge effects in temperate woodlands of south-eastern Australia

Thomas E. Wright*, Sabine Kasel, Michael Tausz, Lauren T. Bennett

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


Despite recent trends in using plant functional traits to describe ecosystem responses to environmental change, few studies have examined the capacity of traits to represent environmental variation for individual species at small spatial scales, such as across forest edges. We examined the utility of 12 easy-to-measure leaf traits (fresh weight to dry weight ratio, specific leaf area (SLA), osmolality, δ13C, δ15N, and concentrations of key nutrients) to detect edge effects on the function of a dominant woodland tree, Eucalyptus arenacea Marginson & Ladiges. The study included replicate E. arenacea trees at the woodland edge (0m) and interior (75m from edge) of three woodlands adjoined by pasture and three woodlands adjoined by plantation established on pasture. Leaf traits proved useful in identifying potentially degrading processes at woodland edges. Notably, greater leaf P concentrations and δ15N in edge than interior trees irrespective of edge type (pasture versus plantation) indicated persistent effects of nutrient enrichment from agricultural practices; and leaf osmolality and Na concentrations indicated greatest exposure of woodland trees to salinity at pasture edges. Nonetheless, leaf traits proved less useful in detecting edge effects on tree physiology, with most traits being non-responsive to a pronounced interactive effect of edge type and distance from edge on physiological measures. In addition, negative correlations between SLA and physiological measures of tree productivity were contrary to global relationships. Overall, we found that although particular leaf traits indicated potentially degrading processes of nutrient enrichment and salinisation, they were not reliable indicators of small-scale edge effects on the physiological function of E. arenacea.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)365-375
Number of pages11
JournalAustralian Journal of Botany
Issue number5
Publication statusPublished - 2013
Externally publishedYes


  • Eucalyptus globulus
  • fragmentation
  • land use
  • plantation.

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Plant Science
  • Ecology, Evolution, Behavior and Systematics


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