New study on photosynthetic capacity of tropical trees

Photo courtesy Husein Kadribegic (CC BY-NC-SA 2.0)

New study on photosynthetic capacity of tropical trees

Göran Wallin and Johan Uddling with collegues gets published in Oecologia.

The article "Photosynthetic capacity of tropical montane tree species in relation to leaf nutrients, successional strategy and growth temperature" by ME.Dusenge, G.Wallin, J.Gårdesten, F.Niyonzima, L.Adolfsson, D.Nsanimana and J.Uddling was published in Oecologia on February 20.


Photosynthetic capacity of tree leaves is typically positively related to nutrient content and little affected by changes in growth temperature. These relationships are, however, often poorly supported for tropical trees, for which interspecific differences may be more strongly controlled by within-leaf nutrient allocation than by absolute leaf nutrient content, and little is known regarding photosynthetic acclimation to temperature. 

To explore the influence of leaf nutrient status, successional strategy and growth temperature on the photosynthetic capacity of tropical trees, we collected data on photosynthetic, chemical and morphological leaf traits of ten tree species in Rwanda. Seven species were studied in a forest plantation at mid-altitude (~1,700 m), whereas six species were studied in a cooler montane rainforest at higher altitude (~2,500 m). Three species were common to both sites, and, in the montane rainforest, three pioneer species and three climax species were investigated. 

Across species, interspecific variation in photosynthetic capacity was not related to leaf nutrient content. Instead, this variation was related to differences in within-leaf nitrogen allocation, with a tradeoff between investments into compounds related to photosynthetic capacity (higher in pioneer species) versus light-harvesting compounds (higher in climax species). Photosynthetic capacity was significantly lower at the warmer site at 1,700 m altitude. 

We conclude that (1) within-leaf nutrient allocation is more important than leaf nutrient content per se in controlling interspecific variation in photosynthetic capacity among tree species in tropical Rwanda, and that (2) tropical montane rainforest species exhibit decreased photosynthetic capacity when grown in a warmer environment.


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