, Volume 94, Issue 2, pp 218–228

The dynamics of photosynthetic acclimation to changes in light quanlity and quality in three Australian rainforest tree species


  • Matthew H. Turnbull
    • Department of Botany and Centre for Conservation BiologyThe University of Queensland
  • David Doley
    • Department of Botany and Centre for Conservation BiologyThe University of Queensland
  • David J. Yates
    • Department of Botany and Centre for Conservation BiologyThe University of Queensland
Original Papers

DOI: 10.1007/BF00341320

Cite this article as:
Turnbull, M.H., Doley, D. & Yates, D.J. Oecologia (1993) 94: 218. doi:10.1007/BF00341320


Photosynthetic acclimation was studied in seedlings of three subtropical rainforest species representing early (Omalanthus populifolius), middle (Duboisia myoporoides) and late (Acmena ingens) successional stages in forest development. Changes in the photosynthetic characteristics of pre-existing leaves were observed following the transfer of plants between deep shade (1–5% of photosynthetically active radiation (PAR), selectively filtered to produce a red/far-red (R/FR) ratio of 0.1) and open glasshouse (60% PAR and a R/FR ratio of 1.1–1.2), and vice versa. The extent and rate of response of the photosynthetic characteristics of each species to changes in light environment were recorded in this simulation of gap formation and canopy closure/overtopping. The light regimes to which plants were exposed produced significant levels of acclimation in all the photosynthetic parameters examined. Following transfer from high to low light, the light-saturated rate of photosynthesis was maintained near pre-transfer levels for 7 days, after which it decreased to levels which closely approximated those in leaves which had developed in low light. The decrease in photosynthetic capacity was associated with lower apparent quantum yields and stomatal conductances. Dark respiration was the parameter most sensitive to changes in light environment, and responded significantly during the first 4–7 days after transfer. Acclimation of photosynthetic capacity to increases in irradiance was significant in two of the three species studied, but was clearly limited in comparison with that of new leaves produced in the high light conditions. This limitation was most pronounced in the early-successional-stage species, O. populifolius. It is likely that structural characteristics of the leaves, imposed at the time of leaf expansion, are largely responsible for the limitations in photosynthetic acclimation to increases in irradiance.

Key words

RainforestPhotosynthetic acclimationAssimilation rateDark respirationStomatal conductance
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© Springer-Verlag 1993