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Tree Physiol. 2002 May;22(7):499-506.

Changes in foliar spectral reflectance and chlorophyll fluorescence of four temperate species following branch cutting.

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  • 1Yale University, School of Forestry and Environmental Studies, 370 Prospect Street, New Haven, CT 06511, USA.


Spectral reflectance and chlorophyll fluorescence are rapid non-invasive methods that can be used to quantify plant stress. Because variation in ambient light (e.g., diurnal patterns of solar radiation) may have a confounding effect on these measurements, branches are often excised in the field and then measured under controlled conditions in the laboratory. We studied four temperate tree species (Abies balsamea (L.) Mill. (balsam fir), Betula papyrifera var. cordifolia (Regel) Fern. (paper birch), Picea rubens Sarg. (red spruce) and Sorbus americana Marsh. (mountain-ash)) to determine how quickly reflectance and fluorescence change following branch cutting. We hypothesized that conifer species, which have tough xeromorphic foliage, would exhibit changes more slowly than broadleaf species. Furthermore, we hypothesized that keeping broadleaf samples cool and moist would delay the onset of reflectance and fluorescence changes. In one set of experiments, we did not use any treatments to maintain the freshness of cut branches. During the first 12 h following cutting, changes in reflectance and fluorescence were slight for all species. Two or 3 days after branch cutting, the two conifers still showed only small changes in the ratio of variable to maximum fluorescence (Fv/Fm) and most reflectance indices, whereas paper birch and mountain-ash showed larger and more rapid declines in Fv/Fm and most reflectance indices. We attribute these declines to loss of water. As a consequence of xeromorphic leaf structure, the conifers were better able to minimize water loss than the two broadleaf species. In another experiment, paper birch that had been kept cool and moist after cutting showed only slight changes in fluorescence and reflectance, even after 3 days, indicating that with careful handling the time interval between collection and measurement of reflectance and fluorescence of many broadleaf specimens can be extended to several days. We conclude that measurements of reflectance and fluorescence need not be made in situ to be accurate and reliable.

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