An evolutionary game of leaf dynamics and its consequences for canopy structure

Kouki Hikosaka, Niels P.R. Anten

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

22 Citations (Scopus)


Canopy photosynthesis models combined with optimization theory have been an important tool to understand environmental responses and interspecific variations in vegetation structure and functioning, but their predictions are often quantitatively incorrect. Although evolutionary game theory and the dynamic modelling of leaf turnover have been suggested useful to solve this problem, there is no model that combines these features. Here, we present such a model of leaf area dynamics that incorporates game theory. Leaf area index (LAI; leaf area per unit ground area) was predicted to increase with an increasing degree of interaction between genetically distinct neighbour plants in light interception. This implies that stands of clonal plants that consist of genetically identical daughter ramets have different LAI from other plants. LAI was also sensitive to the assumed vertical pattern of leaf shedding: LAI was predicted to increase with the degree to which leaves were assumed to be shed from higher positions in the canopy. Our model provides more realistic predictions of LAI than previous static optimization, dynamic optimization or static game theoretical models. We suggest that both leaf dynamics and game theoretical considerations of plant competition are indispensable to scale from individual leaf traits to the structure and functioning of vegetation stands, especially in herbaceous species.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)1024-1032
Number of pages9
JournalFunctional Ecology
Issue number5
Publication statusPublished - 2012 Oct


  • Canopy photosynthesis
  • Evolutionarily stable strategy
  • Game theory
  • Leaf area index
  • Leaf turnover
  • Light competition
  • Model
  • Nitrogen use
  • Optimization


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