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Oecologia. 2004 Apr;139(2):163-77. Epub 2004 Feb 7.

A functional analysis of the crown architecture of tropical forest Psychotria species: do species vary in light capture efficiency and consequently in carbon gain and growth?

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Section of Evolution and Ecology, Division of Biological Sciences, University of California, Davis, CA 95616, USA.


The crown architectures of 11 Psychotria species native to Barro Colorado Island, Panama were reconstructed from field measurements of leaf and branch geometry with the three-dimensional simulation model Y-plant. The objective was to assess the role of species differences in architecture in light capture and carbon gain in their natural understory environment. When species were grouped according to their putative light environment preference, the shade tolerant species were found to have a small but significantly higher efficiency of light capture for both diffuse and direct light as compared to the light demanding species. Within each grouping, however, there were few significant differences in light capture efficiency among species. The lower efficiencies of light demanding species was due to slightly higher self-shading and slightly lower angular efficiencies. Simulations of whole plant assimilation showed that light demanding species had greater daily assimilation in both direct and diffuse light due to the significantly greater light availability in the sites where light demanding species were found, as compared to those where shade tolerant species occurred. Among light demanding species, the above ground relative growth rate measured over a 1-year period by applying allometric equations for mass versus linear dimensions, was positively correlated with diffuse PFD and with mean daily assimilation estimated from Y-plant. For the shade tolerant plants, there was no significant correlation between RGR and mean daily assimilation or with any measure of light availability, probably because they occurred over a much narrower range of light environments. Overall, the results reveal a strong convergence in light capture efficiencies among the Psychotria species at lower values than previously observed in understory plants using similar approaches. Constraints imposed by other crown functions such as hydraulics and biomechanical support may place upper limits on light capture efficiency.

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