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Tree Physiol. 2007 Feb;27(2):199-208.

Photosynthetic capacity and nitrogen partitioning in foliage of the evergreen shrub Daphniphyllum humile along a natural light gradient.

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  • 1Department of Forest Resources, Faculty of Agriculture, Shizuoka University, Ohya 836 Shizuoka 422-8529, Japan.


We examined the effects of leaf age and mutual shading on the morphology, photosynthetic properties and nitrogen (N) allocation of foliage of an evergreen understory shrub, Daphniphyllum humile Maxim, growing along a natural light gradient in a deciduous Fagus crenata-dominated forest in Japan. Seedlings in high-light environments were subject to greater mutual shading and 1-year-old foliage survival was lower than in seedlings in low-light environments, indicating that the survival rates of foliage were related to the degree of mutual shading. Although specific leaf area (SLA) in current- and 1-year-old foliage was curvilinearly related to daily photosynthetic photon flux (PPF), SLA was unaffected by leaf age, indicating that foliage in D. humile may not acclimate morphologically to annual changes in light caused by mutual shading. Light-saturated net photosynthetic rates (Pmax) were correlated with daily PPF in current-year foliage. In addition, a strong, positive relationship was found between nitrogen concentration per unit leaf area and Pmax. In contrast, the relationship among PPF, N and photosynthetic parameters in 1-year old foliage was weak because of the strong remobilization of N from older leaves to current-year foliage in plants growing in high light. However, the relationship between daily PPF and both photosynthetic N-use efficiency and the ratio of maximum electron transport rate to maximum carboxylation rate did not differ between current-year and 1-year-old foliage, suggesting that these responses help maintain a high photosynthetic efficiency even in older foliage. We conclude that D. humile maximizes whole-plant carbon gain by maintaining a balance among photosynthetic functions across wide ranges of leaf ages and light environments.

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