, Volume 125, Issue 3, pp 331-340

Photosynthetic induction in saplings of three shade-tolerant tree species: comparing understorey and gap habitats in a French Guiana rain forest

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The photosynthetic induction response under constant and fluctuating light was examined in naturally occurring saplings (about 0.5–2 m in height) of three shade-tolerant tree species, Pourouma bicolor spp digitata, Dicorynia guianensis, and Vouacapoua americana, growing in bright gaps and in the shaded understorey in a Neotropical rain forest. Light availability to saplings was estimated by hemispherical photography. Photosynthetic induction was measured in the morning on leaves that had not yet experienced direct sunlight. In Dicorynia, the maximum net photosynthesis rate (A max) was similar between forest environments (ca 4 µmol m–2 s–1), whereas for the two other species, it was twice as high in gaps (ca 7.5) as in the understorey (ca 4.5). However, the time required to reach 90% of A max did not differ among species, and was short, 7–11 min. Biochemical induction was fast in leaves of Pourouma, as about 3 min were needed to reach 75% of maximum carboxylation capacity (V cmax); the two other species needed 4–5 min. When induction continued after reaching 75% of V cmax, stomatal conductance increased in Pourouma only (ca 80%), causing a further increase in its net photosynthesis rate. When fully induced leaves were shaded for 20 min, loss of induction was moderate in all species. However, gap saplings of Dicorynia had a rapid induction loss (ca 80%), which was mainly due to biochemical limitation as stomatal conductance decreased only slowly. When leaves were exposed to a series of lightflecks separated by short periods of low light, photosynthetic induction increased substantially and to a similar extent in all species. Although A max was much lower in old than in young leaves as measured in Dicorynia and Vouacapoua, variables of the dynamic response of photosynthesis to a change in light tended to be similar between young and old leaves. Old leaves, therefore, might remain important for whole-plant carbon gain, especially in understorey environments. The three shade-tolerant species show that, particularly in low light, they are capable of efficient sunfleck utilization.

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