First direct landscape-scale measurement of tropical rain forest Leaf Area Index, a key driver of global primary productivity

Ecol Lett. 2008 Feb;11(2):163-72. doi: 10.1111/j.1461-0248.2007.01134.x. Epub 2007 Nov 21.


Leaf Area Index (leaf area per unit ground area, LAI) is a key driver of forest productivity but has never previously been measured directly at the landscape scale in tropical rain forest (TRF). We used a modular tower and stratified random sampling to harvest all foliage from forest floor to canopy top in 55 vertical transects (4.6 m(2)) across 500 ha of old growth in Costa Rica. Landscape LAI was 6.00 +/- 0.32 SEM. Trees, palms and lianas accounted for 89% of the total, and trees and lianas were 95% of the upper canopy. All vertical transects were organized into quantitatively defined strata, partially resolving the long-standing controversy over canopy stratification in TRF. Total LAI was strongly correlated with forest height up to 21 m, while the number of canopy strata increased with forest height across the full height range. These data are a benchmark for understanding the structure and functional composition of TRF canopies at landscape scales, and also provide insights for improving ecosystem models and remote sensing validation.

Publication types

  • Research Support, U.S. Gov't, Non-P.H.S.

MeSH terms

  • Costa Rica
  • Ecosystem*
  • Plant Leaves / physiology*
  • Trees*
  • Tropical Climate*