, Volume 82, Issue 4, pp 544-551

Nitrate reductase activity and chlorophyll content in sun leaves of subtropical Australian closed-forest (rainforest) and open-forest communities

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A study of the sun leaves of two closed-forest (rainforest) and eight open-forest communities in subtropical southeast Queensland, Australia, showed that a large number of pioneer woody species in closed-forests had high levels of nitrate reductase (EC, whereas only a few herbaceous species in the open-forests showed high levels. There was a continuously declining gradient in nitrate reductase activity from pioneer to mature-forest species in all communities, associated with a decrease in Leaf Specific Area. The level of nitrate reductase activity was lower in certain plant families (including sclerophyllous monocotyledons, small-leaved composites and legumes), but still showed the same general relationship with Leaf Specific Area. The decrease in Leaf Specific Area is associated with an increase in both the dry weight: fresh weight ratio and the chlorophyll a: chlorophyll b ratio of the leaves. Three groups of plants can be recognised by nitrate reductase activity plotted against water content (% fresh weight) of their leaves-(1) pioneer, (2) mature-forest and (3) semi-sclerophyllous species. As the proportion of cytoplasm to structural tissue (indicated by water content) in leaves increases, there is a continuous increase in (a) nitrate reductase activity (b) total chlorophyll (per unit dry weight) (c) the proportion of chlorophyll b to chlorophyll a and (b) chloroplastic isoform of glutamine synthetase. These attributes are associated with high nitrogen content in the leaves and high photosynthetic potentials, resulting in rapid growth rates of pioneer species.