Leaf physiological versus morphological acclimation to high-light exposure at different stages of foliar development in oak

J. Rodríguez-Calcerrada, P. B. Reich, E. Rosenqvist, J. A. Pardos, F. J. Cano, I. Aranda

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

38 Scopus citations


We investigated light acclimation in seedlings of the temperate oak Quercus petraea (Matt.) Liebl. and the co-occurring sub-Mediterranean oak Quercus pyrenaica Willd. Seedlings were raised in a greenhouse for 1 year in either 70 (HL) or 5.3% (LL) of ambient irradiance of full sunlight, and, in the following year, subsets of the LL-grown seedlings were transferred to HL either before leaf flushing (LL-HLBF plants) or after full leaf expansion (LL-HLAF plants). Gas exchange, chlorophyll a fluorescence, nitrogen fractions in photosynthetic components and leaf anatomy were examined in leaves of all seedlings 5 months after plants were moved from LL to HL. Differences between species in the acclimation of LL-grown plants to HL were minor. For LL-grown plants in HL, area-based photosynthetic capacity, maximum rate of carboxylation, maximum rate of electron transport and the effective photochemical quantum yield of photosystem II were comparable to those for plants grown solely in HL. A rapid change in nitrogen distribution among photosynthetic components was observed in LL-HLAF plants, which had the highest photosynthetic nitrogen-use efficiency. Increases in mesophyll thickness and dry mass per unit area governed leaf acclimation in LL-HLBF plants, which tended to have less nitrogen in photosynthetic components and a lower assimilation potential per unit of leaf mass or nitrogen than LL-HLAF plants. The data indicate that the phenological state of seedlings modified the acclimatory response of leaf attributes to increased irradiance. Morphological adaptation of leaves of LL-HLBF plants enhanced photosynthetic capacity per unit leaf area, but not per unit leaf dry mass, whereas substantial redistribution of nitrogen among photosynthetic components in leaves of LL-HLAF plants enhanced both mass- and area-based photosynthetic capacity.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)761-771
Number of pages11
JournalTree physiology
Issue number5
StatePublished - May 2008


  • Competitive ability
  • Nitrogen partitioning
  • Photosynthetic acclimation
  • Quercus petraea
  • Quercus pyrenaica

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