Forest Productivity, Leaf Area, and Terrain in Southern Appalachian Deciduous Forests
Leaf area index (LAI) is an important structural characteristic of forest ecosystems which has been shown to be strongly related to forest mass and energy cycles and forest productivity. LAI is more easily measured than forest productivity, and so a strong relationship between LAI and productivity would be a valuable tool in forest management. While a linear relationship has been observed between LAI and forest productivity, most ofthese data have been collected in needle-leaved evergreen stands. The generality and consistency of the relationship between LAI and productivity has not been as well established for deciduous forests.
Leaf area index (LAI) and aboveground net primary production (ANPP) were measured on 16 forest stands in the southern Appalachian Mountains. These stands span a range of elevation, slope position, temperature, and moisture regimes. LAI averaged 5.8 m2 m-2 and ranged from 2.7 to 8.2. ANPP averaged 9.2 Mg ha-1 yr-1 and ranged from 5.2 to 11.8 Mg ha-2 yr-1.
LAI and ANPP decreased significantly from cove to ridge sites, and ANPP decreases significantly from low to high elevation (P c 0.05, linear regression slope). Elevation-related differences in ANPP do not appearto be due to changes in precipitation, leaf nitrogen content, or site N mineralization rates.
Linear ANPP-LAI equations fit to the data measured in this study were significant (P < 0.05). These relationships were not significantly different (P > 0.1) from linear relationships based on data reported in most other studies of ANPP and IAI in eastern deciduous forests of North America. However, the slope of a linear regression model based ..on North American eastern deciduous forests was significantly different (P < 0.05) from one based on data collected in temperate deciduous forests for the rest of the globe. The differences were slight over the range of observed data, however, and the difference may be due to a narrower range of data for North American deciduous forests.