Intra-species variation in specific leaf area (SLA) and leaf area (LA) provides mechanistic insight into the persistence and function of plants, including their likely success under climate change and their suitability for revegetation. We measured SLA and LA in 101 Australian populations of the perennial shrub Dodonaea viscosa (L.) Jacq. subsp. angustissima (narrow-leaf hop-bush) (Sapindaceae). Populations were located across about a 1000 km north–south gradient, with climate grading from arid desert to mesic Mediterranean. We also measured leaves from 11 populations across an elevational gradient (300–800 m asl), where aridity and temperature decrease with elevation. We used regression and principal component analyses to relate leaf traits to the abiotic environment. SLA displayed clinal variation, increasing from north to south and correlated with latitude and the first principal component of joint environmental variables. Both SLA and LA correlated positively with most climatic and edaphic variables. Across latitude, LA showed more variability than SLA. Changes in leaf density and thickness may have caused the relative stability of SLA. Only LA decreased with elevation. The absence of a SLA response to elevation could be a consequence of abiotic conditions that favour low SLA at both ends of the elevational gradient. We demonstrated that the widely distributed narrow-leaf hop-bush shows considerable variability in LA and SLA, which allows it to persist in a broad environmental envelope. As this shrub is widely used for revegetation in Australia, South America and the Asia-Pacific region, our results are consistent with the notion that seed used to revegetate mesic environments could be sourced from more arid areas to increase seed suitability to future climate change.
- Dodonaea viscosa subsp. angustissima
- elevational gradient
- intra-specific trait variation
- latitudinal gradient
- leaf area
- specific leaf area