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Oecologia. 2003 May;135(4):500-9. Epub 2003 Mar 26.

Leaf display and photosynthesis of tree seedlings in a cool-temperate deciduous broadleaf forest understorey.

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Institute for Basin Ecosystem Studies, Gifu University, 1-1 Yanagido, 501-1193, Gifu, Japan.


To examine a possible convergence in leaf photosynthetic characteristics and leaf display responses to light environment in seedlings of three canopy and two shrub tree species in understorey of cool-temperate deciduous broadleaf forest, relationships between light environment, leaf orientation and leaf light-photosynthetic response were measured. Light capture of the seedlings (17-24 individuals with 2-12 leaves for each species) was assessed with a three dimensional geometric modeling program Y-plant. Leaf photosynthetic characteristics of the five species were found to have acclimated to the understorey light environment, i.e., low light compensation point and high apparent quantum yield. In addition, light-saturated photosynthetic rates were higher in seedlings inhabiting microsites with higher light availability. Efficiencies of light capture and carbon gain of the leaf display were evaluated by simulating the directionalities of light capture and daily photosynthesis for each seedling using hemispherical canopy photography. The results showed that most of the seedlings orientated their leaves in a way to increase the daily photosynthesis during the direct light periods (sunflecks) rather than maximize daily photosynthesis by diffuse light. Simulations also showed that daily photosynthesis would increase only 10% of that on actual leaf display when the leaves orientated to maximize the diffuse light interception. Simulations in which leaf orientations were varied showed that when the leaf display fully maximized direct light interception, the time that leaves were exposed to excessive photon flux density of >800 mumol photons m(-2) s(-1) were doubled. The understorey seedlings studied responded to the given light environments in a way to maximize the efficiency of acquisition and use of light during their short (approximately 3 month) seasonal growth period.

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