The use of plant functional traits has become increasingly popular in ecological studies because plant functional traits help to understand key ecological processes in plant species and communities. This also includes changes in diversity, inter- and intraspecific interactions, and relationships of species at different spatiotemporal scales. Leaf traits are among the most important traits as they describe key dimensions of a plant's life history strategy. Further, leaf area is a key parameter with relevance for other traits such as specific leaf area, which in turn correlates with leaf chemical composition, photosynthetic rate, leaf longevity, and carbon investment. Measuring leaf area usually involves the use of scanners and commercial software and can be difficult under field conditions. We present Leaf-IT, a new smartphone application for measuring leaf area and other trait-related areas. Leaf-IT is free, designed for scientific purposes, and runs on Android 4 or higher. We tested the precision and accuracy using objects with standardized area and compared the area measurements of real leaves with the well-established, commercial software WinFOLIA using the Altman-Bland method. Area measurements of standardized objects show that Leaf-IT measures area with high accuracy and precision. Area measurements with Leaf-IT of real leaves are comparable to those of WinFOLIA. Leaf-IT is an easy-to-use application running on a wide range of smartphones. That increases the portability and use of Leaf-IT and makes it possible to measure leaf area under field conditions typical for remote locations. Its high accuracy and precision are similar to WinFOLIA. Currently, its main limitation is margin detection of damaged leaves or complex leaf morphologies.
Keywords: App; functional ecology; functional trait; leaf area; logical agent; smartphone.