, Volume 107, Issue 1, pp 21-32

The effects of light acclimation during and after foliage expansion on photosynthesis ofAbies amabilis foliage within the canopy

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Variation in the photosynthetic function ofAbies amabilis foliage within a canopy was examined and related to three different processes that affect foliage function: foliage aging, sun-shade acclimation that occurred while foliage was expanding, and reacclimation after expansion was complete. Foliage produced in the sun had higher photosynthesis at light saturation (A max, μmol·m-2·s-1), dark respiration (μmol·m-2·s-1), nitrogen content (g·m-2), chlorophyll content (g·m-2), and chlorophylla:b ratio, and a lower chlorophyll to nitrogen ratio (chl:N), than foliage produced in the shade. As sun foliage becomes shaded, it becomes physiologically similar to shade foliage, even though it still retains a sun morphology. Shaded sun foliage exhibited lowerA max, dark respiration, nitrogen content, and chlorophylla:b ratio, and a higher chl:N ratio than sun foliage of the same age remaining in the open. However, shaded sun foliage had a higher chlorophyll content than sun foliage remaining in the open, even though true shade foliage had a lower chlorophyll content than sun foliage. This anomaly arises because as sun foliage becomes shaded, it retains a higher nitrogen content than shade foliage in a similar light environment, but the two forms have similar chl:N ratios. Within the canopy, most physiological indicators were more strongly correlated with the current light environment than with foliage age or leaf thickness, with the exception of chlorophyll content.A max decreased significantly with both decreasing current light environment of the foliage and increasing foliage age. The same trend with current light and age was found for the chlorophylla:b ratio. Foliage nitrogen content also decreased with a decrease in current light environment, but no distinct pattern was found with foliage age. Leaf thickness was also important for predicting leaf nitrogen content: thicker leaves had more nitrogen than thinner leaves regardless of light environment or age. The chl:N ratio had a strong negative correlation with the current light environment, and, as with nitrogen content, no distinct pattern was found with foliage age. Chlorophyll content of the foliage was not well correlated with any of the three predictor variables: current light environment, foliage age or leaf thickness. On the other hand, chlorophyll content was positively correlated with the amount of nitrogen in a leaf, and once nitrogen was considered, the current light environment was also highly significant in explaining the variation in chlorophyll content. It has been suggested that the redistribution of nitrogen both within and between leaves is a mechanism for photosynthetic acclimation to the current light environment. Within theseA. amabilis canopies, both leaf nitrogen and the chl:N ratio were strongly correlated with the current light environment, but only weakly with leaf age, supporting the idea that changing light is the driving force for the redistribution of nitrogen both within and between leaves. Thus, our results support previous theories on nitrogen distribution and partitioning. However,A max was significantly affected by both foliage age and the current light environment, indicating that changes in light alone are not enough to explain changes inA max with time.