My question is this: There seems to be a load of focus lately on wood chips (Thank you Mr. Gautschi) and it appears there's a ton of success with it. But I wonder why there is less stress on leaves? I mean, nature drops them every year and they blanket the forest. Compare this with dead wood material which seems to be on a much smaller scale (i could be wrong). Leaves seem to be a bit more readily available and easier to manage yourself. Is there something more valuable about wood chips than leaves? I'd love to know your thoughts and please let me know if my perceptions are incorrect.
I understand that in a permaculture forum the idea of chop and drop should go along with this topic so I'm open to hearing of this as well.
I don't know if this is exactly what you are looking for, but for me, leaves don't stay where I need them. If I'm going for soil building or mulching a specific area, I can't rely on leaves to do that job, but wood chips stay where I want them. I love when the leaves find a home on my lot, but they won't stay anywhere unless I build wind screens, and I think I have more effective ways to utilize my time right now (like going on the internet :/).
My lot is small, and I'm not exactly what I would call experienced in permaculture, but that is why wood chips are my favored and most readily available heavy mulch.
Think of it as "brown vs white". In this case brown (the leaves) contains a lot of tannins, which break down to humic acids, and the white (chips) has a lot less tannins and a lot more cellulose. Cellulose feeds termites and bacteria and brown rot fungi, and tannins are broken down principally by the white rot fungi.
If you chop and drop, you are going to have a balance of both, so the soil food web is going to be pretty diverse. If you have only leaves, you are going to push the soil food web toward the white rot fungi, which is what you would find in old growth forests that have lots of leaf litter on the forest floor. This is desirable for perennial plants, but if you want to grow annuals or biennials, like brassicas, they may not like it as much as soil that has more cellulose digesting soil critters present.