Leaf Morphological and Stomatal Variations in Paper Birch Populations along Environmental Gradients in Canada


Variations in leaf morphology and stomatal characteristics have been extensively studied at both inter- and intraspecific levels although not explicitly in the context of paper birch (Betula papyrifera Marsh) populations. The birch populations might have developed the leaf variations that allowed them to adapt to a wide climatic gradient. Therefore, in this study we examined variations in the leaf morphological and stomatal characteristics of sixteen paper birch populations collected across Canada and grown in a common garden. We also examined the relationship between these leaf characteristics and the climate of the population’s origin. Significant genotypic differences were found in the leaf characteristics measured among the birch populations. Thus, we expected that the observed leaf variations may be partly explained as natural diversity in the birch due to differences in environment of origin. We noticed that along mean annual precipitation and aridity gradients, hair density on leaf adaxial surface had decreased whereas stomatal density increased significantly. Our results showed that the populations with larger leaf area and specific leaf area had higher hair density but low stomatal density. These leaf characteristics provided a structural basis in reducing water loss through leaves and increasing water use efficiency. A trade-off between stomatal area and density resulted in this study might be a strategy of the birch to balance stomatal conductance in decreased precipitation.

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Pyakurel, A. and Wang, J. (2014) Leaf Morphological and Stomatal Variations in Paper Birch Populations along Environmental Gradients in Canada. American Journal of Plant Sciences, 5, 1508-1520. doi: 10.4236/ajps.2014.511166.

Conflicts of Interest

The authors declare no conflicts of interest.


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