, Volume 110, Issue 1, pp 10-17

Light response characteristics of a morphologically diverse group of southern hemisphere conifers as measured by chlorophyll fluorescence

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Unlike northern hemisphere conifer families, the southern family, Podocarpaceae, produces a great variety of foliage forms ranging from functionally broad-, to needle-leaved. The production of broad photosynthetic surfaces in podocarps has been linked qualitatively to low-light-environments, and we undertook to assess the validity of this assumption by measuring the light response of a morphologically diverse group of podocarps. The light response, as apparent photochemical electron transport rate (ETR), was measured by modulated fluorescence in ten species of this family and six associated species (including five Cupressaceae and one functionally needle-leaved angiosperm) all grown under identical glasshouse conditions. In all species, ETR was found to increase as light intensity increased, reaching a peak value (ETRmax) at saturating quantum flux (PPFDsat), and decreasing thereafter. ETRmax ranged from 217 μmol electrons · m−2 · s−1 at a PPFDsat of 1725 μmol photons · m−2 · s−1 in Actinostrobus acuminatus to an ETR of 60 μmol electrons · m−2 · s−1 at a PPFDsat of 745 μmol electrons · m−2 · s−1 in Podocarpus dispermis. Good correlations were observed between ETRmax and both PPFDsat and maximum assimilation rate measured by gas-exchange analysis. The effective quantum yield at light saturation remained constant in all species with an average value of 0.278 ± 0.0035 determined for all 16 species. Differences in the shapes of light response curves were related to differences in the response of non-photochemical quenching (q n), with q n saturating faster in species with low PPFDsat. Amongst the species of Podocarpaceae, the log of average shoot width was well correlated with PPFDsat, wider leaves saturating at lower light intensities. This suggests that broadly flattened shoots in the Podocarpaceae are an adaptation to low light intensity.

Received: 15 April 1996 / Accepted: 30 September 1996