Responses of leaf structure and photosynthetic properties to intra-canopy light gradients: A common garden test with four broadleaf deciduous angiosperm and seven evergreen conifer tree species

Tomasz P. Wyka, J. Oleksyn, R. Zytkowiak, P. Karolewski, A. M. Jagodziński, P. B. Reich

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

62 Scopus citations

Abstract

Spectra of leaf traits in northern temperate forest canopies reflect major differences in leaf longevity between evergreen conifers and deciduous broadleaf angiosperms, as well as plastic modifications caused by within-crown shading. We investigated (1) whether long-lived conifer leaves exhibit similar intra-canopy plasticity as short-lived broadleaves, and (2) whether global interspecific relationships between photosynthesis, nitrogen, and leaf structure identified for sun leaves adequately describe leaves differentiated in response to light gradients. We studied structural and photosynthetic properties of intra-tree sun and shade foliage in adult trees of seven conifer and four broadleaf angiosperm species in a common garden in Poland. Shade leaves exhibited lower leaf mass-per-area (LMA) than sun leaves; however, the relative difference was smaller in conifers than in broadleaves. In broadleaves, LMA was correlated with lamina thickness and tissue density, while in conifers, it was correlated with thickness but not density. In broadleaves, but not in conifers, reduction of lamina thickness was correlated with a thinner palisade layer. The more conservative adjustment of conifer leaves could result from a combination of phylogenetic constraints, contrasting leaf anatomies and shoot geometries, but also from functional requirements of long-lived foliage. Mass-based nitrogen concentration (N mass ) was similar between sun and shade leaves, and was lower in conifers than in deciduous broadleaved species. Given this, the smaller LMA in shade corresponded with a lower area-based N concentration (N area ). In evergreen conifers, LMA and N area were less powerful predictors of area-based photosynthetic rate (A max(area) ) in comparison with deciduous broadleaved angiosperms. Multiple regression for sun and shade leaves showed that, in each group, A max(mass) was related to N mass but not to LMA, whereas LMA became a significant codeterminant of A max(mass) in analysis combining both groups. Thus, a fundamental mass-based relationship between photosynthesis, nitrogen, and leaf structure reported previously also exists in a dataset combining within-crown and across-functional type variation.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)11-24
Number of pages14
JournalOecologia
Volume170
Issue number1
DOIs
StatePublished - Sep 2012

Keywords

  • Evergreen leaves
  • Leaf mass-per-area
  • Leaf plasticity
  • Plant functional types
  • Shade acclimation

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